The Department of Interior is withholding state wildlife agency funding.
The Idaho Wildlife Federation and wildlife federations from 34 other states, including the National Wildlife Federation, have called on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to ensure that the department’s recently-announced review of grants doesn’t impair state fish and wildlife management funding and hunting access programs.
Recently, Secretary Zinke announced a freeze on all Interior Department grants exceeding $100,000 while the agency reviews its budget. Unfortunately, this freeze has caught up the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Wildlife And Sport Fish Restoration Program. These funds are crucial to management of our nation’s fish and wildlife, and providing hunting and fishing opportunities. In Idaho, the delay has the Department of Fish and Game scrambling to understand and deal with the consequences. These funds facilitate our Hunters Education programs, fund habitat recovery projects, pay for WMAs, and keep our hunting and fishing opportunities top-quality among many other things. A prolonged delay could devastate long-term conservation projects like the Clagstone Meadows Easement, which perpetuates timber jobs, habitat, and public hunting access.
To understand why this move is unprecedented we need to take a look at Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson funds. These funds are not “grants” because they are directly funded from self-imposed federal excise taxes. The funds, paid by all of us hunters, anglers, recreational shooters, and boaters, are put into a special Trust Fund to enable our state fish and wildlife agencies to carry out their conservation and management missions.
These funds are considered “off budget” status. As in, the taxes are paid into a specific fund with a specific purpose. This “off budget” status means the fund cannot get tied up in the quagmire, or politicization, of congressional meddling. This funding structure results in reliable fast-action funding for Idaho Department of Fish and Game- essential to the ability of all state fish and wildlife agencies to carry out their management activities for game species, sport fish, and non-game species.
Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson prop up our outdoor culture and economy. $1.5 billion is pumped annually into Idaho’s economy from the hunting and fishing industry. Secretary Zinke, please honor our request and allow those funds go through to their proper destination.
Read the letter below, signed by 36 executive directors, representing over 6 million members.