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Wildlife conservation groups provide important funding

Wildlife conservation groups help provide for public hunting opportunities around the state such as pheasant hunting on Drummond Flats. [PHOTO BY ED GODFREY, THE OKLAHOMAN] 

Wildlife conservation groups help provide for public hunting opportunities around the state such as pheasant hunting on Drummond Flats. [PHOTO BY ED GODFREY, THE OKLAHOMAN] 

If you are a sportsman or sportswoman in Oklahoma and really want to do something to improve hunting and fishing opportunities in the state, become a member of a wildlife conservation organization.

Such groups are critical to the wildlife habitat work being done across the state by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, mostly because of their financial donations.

Almost every dollar the Wildlife Department gets from wildlife conservation organizations are matched by three times with federal funds.

“If you give me a quarter I can make a dollar out of it,” said Alan Peoples, head of the wildlife division for the Wildlife Department. “We make a lot of money that way.”

And it's money used for a wide number of projects that benefit hunters and anglers.

It works like this. The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, commonly known as the Pittman-Robertson Act, was approved by Congress on Sept. 2, 1937, and became effective July 1, 1938.

The purpose of the act was to provide funding for restoration of wild birds and mammals and to acquire, develop and manage their habitats. It was amended Oct. 23, 1970, to include funding for hunter training programs and the development, operation and maintenance of public shooting ranges.

The money is raused from a federal excise tax on sporting arms, ammunition, and archery equipment, and a tax on handguns.

These funds are collected from the manufacturers by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and are apportioned each year to the states by the U.S. Department of the Interior, based on a formula that considers the total area of the state and the number of licensed hunters in the state.

On the fishing side, the Dingell-Johnson Act or Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1950 does the same thing. It was modeled after the Pittman-Robertson Act.

Excise taxes on fishing tackle, electric motors, a motorboat fuel tax on gasoline and import duties on boats, sailboats and yachts are placed in a fund with the Department of Treasury and doled out to states for sport fish management based on land area and fishing license holders.

It also is a 3 to 1 match. If a state can provide 25 percent of funding for a project, the sport fish and wildlife restoration funds provide the rest.

In fiscal year 2018, the Wildlife Department received $24.47 million in federal Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration revenues. More than a third of its fiscal year 2018 operating budget of $66.18 million came from the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration funds. It is biggest slice in the Wildlife Department's budget pie chart, even more than the sale of hunting and fishing licenses.

That's money unavailable to the Wildlife Department if conservation groups like the National Wild Turkey Federation, Quail Forever, Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation - just to name a few - did make financial donations.

For example, the National Wild Turkey Federation recently gave $8,750 to the Wildlife Department for projects on the Packsaddle and Black Kettle Wildlife Management Areas, Peoples said.

That pot of money grew to $26,250 through the matching wildlife restoration funds and is being used to remove cedar trees from the two WMAs.

When cedar trees grow under cottonwood trees, turkeys will no longer use the cottonwoods as roosting trees. Eliminating the cedars is good for turkeys thus it is good for turkey hunters.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation recently gave $8,000 to the Wildlife Department, which the agency turned into $32,000 through the matching grant, and used the funds to repair roads on the Cherokee WMA.

Chances are very few, if any, of the hunters who use the Cherokee WMA are members of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Yet, they benefit from the conservation group's work.

While conservation organizations are most interested in their species of choice, the money they raise and provide to the Wildlife Department often benefits other wildlife species as well.

“Good habitat for quail also is good habitat for turkeys and deer,” Peoples said.

Wildlife conservation organizations work to make hunting and fishing better for everyone, not just their members.

“They are critical,” Peoples said. “They give us a lot of money to do good things with.”

Ed Godfrey

Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more... Read more ›