column By: Lee J. Hoots | July, 18
In this issue is a well-written feature, “Arctic Grizzly,” by Guy Miner, who pursued a lifelong dream in a state that long ago earned its reputation for fantastic sporting opportunities through careful, often highly restrictive, game management. These same management lessons could be easily used in the Lower 48 if we ceased to allow litigation to continually bind up professional wildlife management.
Like the wolf, the grizzly has again become a recent poster child for the close-minded and ill-informed, anti-hunting crowd. I have likewise encountered several hunters who would look down upon any of their brethren who had the opportunity to pursue them.
Such a mindset, it seems, flies in the face of sound conservation; anyone who purchases a hunting license and/or tag is paying for wildlife in the state where they hunt. Ever heard of the Pittman-Robertson Act (P-R) of 1937? If not, it’s a federal excise tax on equipment that you and I pay at the checkout counter when buying firearms, ammunition and accessories. The funds are collected and distributed to individual states for the sole purpose of game management, and by beneficial default, all wildlife management. My research suggests that more than $10 billion has been collected since the P-R Act was introduced! (The Dingell-Johnson Act of 1950 is similar but relates to state fisheries.)
The problem is, most states find it increasingly difficult to manage game and attract interested hunters. As a result, they do not receive their entire annual P-R allotment of hunter-funded subsidies. This can be seen in the declining number of licenses sold in some states. P-R funding also takes a state’s land mass into consideration, so a smaller state, no matter how many hunting licenses are sold, may suffer as a result.
The opposite is true as well. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in its apportionment statement regarding P-R funding for the 2018 fiscal year, 10 states received more than $22 million. They include, in round figures: Texas ($36.6 million), Alaska ($33.4 million), Pennsylvania ($28.1 million), California ($26 million), Michigan ($24.2 million), Wisconsin ($23.5 million), Minnesota ($23.4 million), Tennessee ($22.5 million), Georgia ($23.2 million) and Arizona ($22 million).
With its “wildlife ranching,” Texas leads the pack and has for some time. Alaska is a different story, however. Its land mass is crucial when it comes to procuring P-R funds, but the state’s mostly sterling game management plays no small role. The most recent U.S. Census Bureau numbers indicate that the state was a permanent home to roughly 740,000 residents in 2017. In the same year, residents purchased 4,535 big-game tags. Nearly 8,793 big-game tags were sold to nonresident sportsmen, and roughly 1,200 of those tags were for brown bears and grizzlies. This is nothing to sneeze at.
While we wrestle over the right to hunt wolfs and grizzlies here in the Lower 48, Alaska’s game managers have known all along that proper management is well worth the effort. Especially when it comes to the usefulness of hunter-funded Pittman-Robertson allocations.