How sportsmen pay the way for wildlife management

When Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Regional Biologist Mark Caron pulled into my dooryard, I was processing the front quarters of the buck I had taken a few days earlier. As he got out of his truck and grabbed his gear, I jokingly remarked that it sure took him long enough. I ribbed him because the last time he was here I didn’t even have the deer out of the truck and hanging on the gambrel before he showed up to take a tooth sample. He must have stopped at the tagging station to check the registrations right after I left…

Mark cracked a smile and I pointed him to the rear of my shop where the cape was located to take this year’s sample tooth.

One of the reasons I look forward to Mark’s visits is because of the wealth of information our wildlife biologists can share with us. They are eager to answer questions and having a one on one discussion is a rare opportunity. Another reason is that he always brings me a current copy of the Wildlife Division Research & Management Report.

The yearly report contains a lot of useful and interesting information regarding wildlife research, assessment and management strategies and techniques. It also lays out hunting and trapping harvest numbers by species with summaries and prospects for the coming seasons.

The report isn’t just for the sportsman however; it is stuffed with non-game animal and bird information too. Topics such as habitat, fauna and species needing the greatest conservation efforts are widely discussed.

What caught my attention in this year’s report was the effort made to educate the general public about how the department is funded and the costs associated with MDIFW’s mission. Wildlife Division Director Judy Camuso notes in her welcome letter, “…the majority (74%) of Maine residents do not understand how the Department is funded, with many residents believing the Department is funded entirely through general state tax dollars.”

Camuso adds, “The reality is that approximately 90% of the annual MDIFW budget comes from sportsman dollars.”

Endangered and Threatened Species Coordinator Charlie Todd explains how most staff salaries, administrative costs and operations of MDIFW’s Bureau of Resource Management are funded by sportsmen through the collection of federal excise taxes on sporting equipment.

In Fiscal Year 2017, the Pittman-Robertson Act and the Dingell-Johnson Act accounted for a combined $9.6 million in funding earmarked for Maine’s management of mammals, birds and fisheries. Every purchase of a firearm, box of ammunition and piece of archery equipment to name a few, is what generates this revenue. Todd notes that both of these funding mechanisms are federal cost sharing programs and require 25% in state matching dollars, which he adds,”…MDIFW derives solely from license revenues.”

Todd summarizes what hunters, trappers and fishermen have known and proclaimed all along, that license sales compromise the core funding for state wildlife agencies. He added, “The saying that ‘sportsmen are the original conservationists’ certainly rings true for program funding.”

If you are interested in learning more about how MDIFW operates and what they do, you can find the report on the Departments’ website or by clicking here.

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