Editor’s note: This story has been updated with later data about federal funding.
By David Pendered
Georgia has created a position, paid with public/private funds, to recruit and retain hunters and shooters. The purpose is to maintain and grow the level of funding for conservation and law enforcement on state land, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.
Fees collected from hunters help pay to maintain public lands. The amounts have been declining over the past decade, according to a federal report.
Likewise, public lands are maintained with excise taxes on guns, ammo and archery equipment that are appropriated to Georgia and other states, Ted Will, assistant chief with the Game Management Section of Wildlife Resources Division of the DNR, said Wednesday.
“Our primary funding comes from two mechanisms,” Will said of the division. “The sale of hunting licenses [is] state money and is appropriated back to us, and used for law enforcement and game management each year.”
State law directs hunting fees to the division. The Legislation can’t divert the funds, Will said.
“The other piece of funding, which is critical, is the No. 1 best program ever developed for conservation funding – the federal Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program,” Will said. “The excise tax on firearms and ammunition, and archery equipment, is appropriated back to the states based on the number of certified license holders and the land area. There’s a formula for that.”
The formula includes the number of paid licensed holders and land area, Will said.
The annual fees collected from hunters have trended downward over the past decade, according to the federal report.
In 2015, Georgia’s collections totaled $12.1 million in licenses, tags, permits and stamps from residents and non-residents.
- In 2007, Georgia collected $13.8 million in hunting fees.
- In 2004, Georgia collected $13.6 million.
- In 2000, Georgia collected $12.8 million.
The stated purpose of the new position is to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters and shooting enthusiasts. The coordinator is to devise and implement a plan that engages the shooting community to boost outdoor education and mentored hunt opportunities, according to a statement from DNR.
The position is the result of a national plan assembled through a partnership of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Council to Advance Hunting and Shooting Sports, Wildlife Management Institute and other organizations, according to DNR’s statement.
The position in Georgia was provided by a partnership of NWTF, DNR, Georgia Wildlife Federation, Quality Deer Management, and Safari Club International, according to DNR’s statement.
Charles Evans was hired for the post. Evans earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in wildlife biology from University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, according to DNR’s statement.
The history of federal funding for wildlife conservation dates to an era when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president.
In 1937, Roosevelt signed the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration into law. Now it’s known as the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act, according to a description of the program in the digital Georgia Hunting Guide.
Georgia has received an average about $12.8 million a year, for the past five years, through the Wildlife Restoration Program, Will said. Georgia has received a total of about $146 million since funding started in 1939, according to the hunting guide.
The Wildlife Resources Division uses the money to fund projects including:
- Promote conservation of wildlife and their habitats;
- Provide public access to Georgia’s wildlife resources;
Hunter education and development;
- Shooting range development and enhancement;
- Wildlife research.
The following projects are among those DNR says have been funded through the program:
- Restoration and management of white-tailed deer, wild turkey and black bear;
- Acquisition and/or management of more than 935,000 acres of public lands on more than 100 Wildlife Management Areas statewide;
- Support for the National Archery in Schools program;
- Construction, maintenance and management of the Charles Elliott Wildlife Center trap and skeet range and 17 other shooting ranges statewide;
- Assess impact of coyotes on fawns.