WASHINGTON — The state of Maine will receive $11.4 million in federal funds that are distributed to the states for fish and wildlife conservation and recreational uses each year, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced on Tuesday.
In all, the USFWS will distribute $1.1 billion to states and U.S. territories. The funds are generated through two programs that disburse dedicated excise taxes that are paid by outdoors enthusiasts each time they purchase firearms, ammunition, archery equipment and boating and fishing gear.
In 1937, Congress created the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program. That was followed in 1950 by the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Program.
Together, those programs have generated more than $15 billion over the years, all of which is shared by states and territories. Each state’s share is determined based on the state’s land area and by the number of hunting and fishing licenses it sells.
Maine’s share is the 10th lowest total disbursed this year, but Maine did receive more than any other state in New England. Texas ($51.6 million), Alaska ($48.8 million) and California ($41.6 million) topped the list of recipients.
“People who enjoy hunting, fishing, boating and recreational shooting provide a strong foundation for conservation funding in this country,” Sally Jewell, secretary of the interior, said in the news release. “The taxes they pay on equipment and boating fuel support critical fish and wildlife management and conservation efforts, create access for recreational boating and underpin education programs that help get kids outdoors.”
According to a Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife fact sheet available online, the department relies heavily on its annual Pittman-Robertson disbursements.
“Here in Maine, 75 percent of the salaries and operating costs of our research and regional management staff related to game animals are paid for by Pittman-Robertson dollars,” according to that fact sheet.
On the fisheries side of the equation, Mike Brown, the fisheries division director for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said federal Dingell-Johnson funds are split three ways.
The USFWS says that this year’s total nationwide disbursement is $238.4 million higher than it was last year. That increase is due to the addition of funds that were not included because of last year’s government sequester. Another factor: An increase in the amount of excise tax collected from the sale of firearms and ammunition.
That spike in the sale of firearms and ammunition offset another decrease in the Dingell-Johnson money that funds fisheries work in Maine.
Brown said that the fisheries restoration funding has been decreasing for the past four years; In 2013, the state received $3.6 million. This year’s disbursement is 9 percent lower, at $3.25 million, according to Brown.
In 2013, about $539,000 went to the state’s access program, which builds boat launches and provides other fishing access. The bulk of the money, $2.3 million, went to the DIF&W’s fisheries division. Another $765,000 went to the Maine Department of Marine Resources.
Maine’s share constitutes a significant portion of the $39.6 million budget of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The access program (Department of Agriculture and Forestry) and more coastal work (Department of Marine Resources) are not part of the DIF&W.
The federal programs can be used to reimburse states for as much as 75 percent of each project funded. The other 25 percent must come from state fish and wildlife agencies, typically using the proceeds from hunting and fishing license sales.