Tuesday, October 13, 2015

This Land is Your Land, Made For You and Me

On Sunday, my son and I took a walk over some 2,000 acres of Pittman-Robertson land about 30 minutes from my house. This land is connected to a 1,200-acre state public hunting area (Seneca Creek State Park), on the east which is connected to another 5,100 acres that cannot be hunted, and the National Park Service's Chesapeake and Ohio Canal to the south. All in all, we are looking at 3,200 acres of hunting land connected to over 5,000 acres of hunter-free land connected to a 185-mile riverside wildlife corridor. All of this is located only a short drive from another 1,800 acres of good hunting land along the Monocacy. Not counting private farms, I have 5,000 acres of farm and forest land to hunt on any time of year. Not too bad, and this kind of hunting land bounty exists all over the U.S., if people will only look!

What's is Pittman-Robertson land?

Pittman-Robertson is a law approved by Congress in September of 1937 which provides funding for the selection, restoration, rehabilitation and improvement of wildlife habitat so that wildlife may be readily available to American hunters. Sometimes known by its more formal name, the "Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act," the law now includes money for hunter training programs and public target ranges as well. Most of the property designated as a "Wildlife Management Area" in your state will be land acquired through the Pittman-Robertson Act

About 4 million acres of P-R land has been bought outright, and about 50 million acres are under long-term lease from private land owners for the use of hunters. For the record, this is an area larger than the states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey combined.

Pittman-Robertson land is acquired through a dedicated 11 percent Federal excise tax on long guns, ammunition, and archery equipment, and a 10 percent tax on handguns. These funds are collected from the manufacturers by the Department of the Treasury and are apportioned each year to the States by the Department of the Interior based on a formula that factors in both the total area of the state and the number of licensed hunters in the state. Pittman-Robertson is a cost-reimbursement program, which means the states must first cover the full amount of an approved project and then apply for reimbursement through Federal Aid for up to 75 percent of the project's cost.

The Pittman-Robertson program may be the most effective and least written about Federal program ever created. Since its inception, more than $2.5 billion has been spent acquiring land for hunters, and as a consequence every species has benefited. Among the notable wildlife successes on Pittman-Roberston land has been the return of wild turkey, white-tailed deer, pronghorn antelope, wood duck, beaver, black bear, giant Canada goose, American elk, desert bighorn sheep, bobcat, mountain lion, and large numbers of raptors, to say nothing of such non-game species as song birds.

While Pittman-Robertson land is specifcially bought and paid for by hunters for hunters, hunting occurs only in season, and most of the time the land is a sanctuary for every other type of wildlife imaginable -- including groundhog (unlimited take, no season) as well as red fox, raccoon and possum (and out west, American badger).

Across the U.S., hunters now spend some $10 billion every year on equipment and trips. Non-hunting nature lovers (birders, hikers, fishermen, campers, picnickers) also spend large sums of money to enjoy wildlife, and both groups count Pittman-Robertson land as a favorite location.

In fact, recent estimates indicate about 70 percent of the people using Pittman-Robertson land are not hunting. That said, the land is not crowded, and 100 percent of all Pittman-Robertson land is purchased or leased by hunters using money obtained from hunters. The primary purpose of all Pittman-Robertson land is its use as a hunting property.

You might notice that the sign also says this land is funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is a 50-year old program that is among the most successful conservation and recreation program in our nation’s history. This program does not cost taxpayers one cent as it is funded by a special tax on oil and has leasing. The LWCF provides enormous benefits, but right-wing members of the House of Representatives and the Senate have allowed the law to sunset and are thereby endangering access to future fishing, hunting, and recreation.  

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