In the 1930s, there were several species of wildlife in North America that were at or near extinction due to excess hunting pressure or human environmental destruction.
To solve this problem, organized groups of hunters asked for the federal government to create an excise tax on firearms and ammunition that would provide funds to each state to manage wild animals and their habitat. The Pittman-Robertson Act was signed into law by Franklin Roosevelt on Sept. 2, 1937, and became effective on July 1 of the following year. As a result, several species of wildlife have made an extraordinary comeback from the brink since the implementation include black bear, waterfowl, white-tailed deer and wild turkey. Instead of this money going into the United States Treasury, it is kept separate and given to the Secretary of the Interior to distribute among the states.
According to the Department of Internal Revenue Service, the federal government collected more than $760 million in firearm and ammunition taxes for the Fiscal Year 2013. The Secretary of the Interior determines how much to give to each state based on a formula that takes into account the area of the state and its number of licensed hunters.
According to a spokesman for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, West Virginia's share of this revenue should be between 7.5 and 8 million dollars. This may seem like a tiny portion of $760 million. It is true that a large percentage of the state's population does purchase a hunting and/or fishing license; and we must keep in mind that West Virginia is one of the smallest states in the entire nation (in area and population).
Another factor to keep in mind is that apportionment of the revenue has risen at a steady pace since 2008 because of the rise in firearm and ammunition sales since then. The 7.5 to 8 million dollars is almost a 50 percent increase from the 2012 apportionment. Every dollar of the revenue has to be put into a state's wildlife-enhancement efforts. This is what the federal law mandates.
It was just a few years ago when a past presidential administration wanted to use this money to cover the medical treatment for the victims of gun violence who did not have any health care coverage. This idea came to a fast halt from the individuals who closely monitor how this revenue is spent.
Firearms and ammunition are not the only things that bring in revenue to this program. Today, archery equipment also generates additional tax revenue for wildlife-enhancement.
Many outdoor enthusiasts would like for the DNR to use this money to purchase more acreage. Remember, West Virginia has its own program for buying land for public hunting with the conservation stamp ($5 resident, $13 nonresident). Purchasing land with the Pittman-Robertson funds would only mean that the bureaucrats in Washington would be able to dictate how the state could use or could not use the acreage. When it comes to buying more land for public hunting, West Virginia can do it with their own resources and we can do it better.
n n n
I attended the fishing expo on March 29 and 30 at Elkins High School, working with the Izaak Walton booth and assisting Dr. Farukh Khan in handing out blood glucose monitors. There were several law enforcement groups handing out information to the kids. The Mountaineer Chapter Izaak Walton League was selling raffle tickets for a boat to support their youth programs, and several other organizations were present with information regarding products that would interest outdoor enthusiasts.
It was the local Izaak Walton League who started the annual event 20 years ago. The idea was to be dedicated to the youth to generate interest in outdoor activities. I hope it will continue to stay this way.