In Washington, D.C., the federal government will soon take more than three-quarters of a million dollars ($760,000) out of West Virginia's fish, wildlife, and law enforcement programs. It has the name "budget sequestration". What this amounts to is a practically across-the-board cuts to government spending. This revenue, supposed to go to all states outdoor programs mentioned above, will now go to new health care programs. These mandated cuts will go into effect come January, 1, 2013, if congress fails to agree on a budget by December 31, 2012. The congress did pass a law that required the cuts, but left it up to the White House, executive-department heads, and bureaucrats to decide which programs to cut and which to exempt.
Curtis Taylor, wildlife chief for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, said West Virginia receives approximately $10 million a year from these programs. That is roughly 40 percent of the DNR's budget. The projected 7.6 percent cuts would slash $760,000 from West Virginia's share of the federal money.
The programs being threatened by sequestration are: Pittman-Robertson (wildlife) and Wallop-Breaux/Dingle-Johnson (fisheries).
The basic point: The money in these programs is NOT "federal" or "taxpayer" money and is not "spent" by the federal government and therefore should not be subject to sequestration. These are sportspersons dollars, the federal government simply collects it and redistributes it to the states. By law (the three acts above) the money can only be spent to restore, protect and manage wildlife and fish. If state fish and wildlife agencies lose these funds there will be immediate and significant impacts to fish and wildlife related recreation. The italicized section is taken from the Mountaineer Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America website (www.iwla.org/mountaineer).
"The cuts will cripple us," Taylor said. "Without that funding, some of our programs will go away and others will be seriously curtailed - rifle ranges, trout hatcheries, hunter education and even our Archery in School Program".
From current information I have received from other states, agency heads are rapidly looking for other ways as to what they need to do. There are other technical details to this idea the feds have not given any consideration.
By law, the money raised by federal excise taxes on hunting equipment, fishing equipment, motorboat fuel, etc., is supposed to be used specifically for states for use in wildlife, fish, and motorboating safety programs. "Those funds are supposed to be sacrosanct", Taylor said.
All sportsmen need to realize this is essentially their money the federal government is fooling around with. If congress does not pass a budget, and if the current administration officials keep fish and wildlife programs on the list of mandatory cute, then everyone involved in this scandal is guilty of violating a federal regulations law.
These funds can be saved, but only if all sportsmen and sportswomen protest long and loud enough. Now is the time to flood our senators and congressmen (and women) with telephone calls, emails, and formal letters expressing opposition to this proposal. Please contact the following Senators and Representative to discuss this matter: Senator Jay Rockefeller, Senator Joe Manchin, Representative Shelley Moore Capito, Representative Nick Rahall, and Representative David McKinley. Only your efforts to inform our representative and senators will help prevent the budget sequestration from taking place. (Addresses and phone numbers are also available on the IWLA website.)
OK, I will now step down off my soap box and talk about the antlerless gun season that came in for three days this past October. The high temperatures we have had for that week were in the middle seventies to low eighties. For me, this is just too warm to really enjoy any kind of deer hunting. If a hunter does bag a deer in this kind of weather, they had better get that animal field-dressed quickly and then really hustle to get the meat someplace where it is super cold. If they don't, all they will end up with is a carcass of spoiled venison.
I have always felt that our wildlife biologists seem to know what they are doing when it comes to managing the deer herd in our state. This early antlerless gun season has been tried in others states with some success at helping wildlife officials create healthier herds.
It is a well-known fact, harvesting female deer is an important, if not the most important, tool the DNR has for regulating deer populations throughout the state. For example, in counties Brooke, Hampshire, Hancock, Hardy, Marshall, Eastern portion of Mineral, Monongalia, Ohio, Tyler, and Wood, archery hunters who start out taking a buck must harvest an antlerless deer before taking a second buck.
Last year, the winter was quite warm with very little, if any, starvation kill. It's like what I said last week, there should be plenty of whitetails for all nimrods this fall. One of the last things sportsmen want to see is an abundance of malnourished deer because there is not enough groceries in the woods. Many people have seen this in some of our state parks, and it is not one bit pretty.