Sunday March 10, 2013

LENOX

In his editorial in the most recent Massachusetts Wildlife magazine, DFW Director Wayne MacCallum commented on the Federal Aid in Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act, commonly referred as the Pittman-Robertson Act. He reminded us how it was passed in 1950 for sport fish restoration, and provided the states with the financial foundation to restore our fish and wildlife resources.

It was financed by establishing a dedicated funding stream supported by a 11 percent excise tax on bows, arrows, ammunition, firearms, fishing tackle and related equipment. By law, the monies could only be used for fish and wildlife restoration by the state fish and wildlife agencies. It was strongly supported by hunters and anglers that buy equipment as well as the industries that manufacture such products.

Some state legislatures (including ours) tried to seize the funds to pay for state services, but have failed because any diversions would automatically result in the loss of the federally collected taxes. But now, according to MacCallum, the use of these funds is being threatened at the federal level. It is called sequestration. At first, sequestration didn't immediately appear to threaten PR funding. The Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act of 1985 had specifically exempted payments to trust funds from excise taxes from sequestration.

However, the Office of Management and Budget, on the advice of its lawyers and in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, interpreted the sequestration exemption for trust funds paid by excise taxes to mean that only the payments of the excise taxes into the wildlife and sport restoration trust funds are exempted from sequestration, but that the appropriations of funds out of these trust funds to implement the purposes for which the trust funds were created are not exempt.

According to MacCallum, about 50 percent of the Massachusetts DFW annual revenue is derived from these funds, and their loss would seriously impact the stability of its long-term wildlife conservation programs. Sequestrating the spending of these trust funds to the states is a breach of faith and clearly violates the intent of the user-pay excise tax collection.

To quote MacCallum, "These funds have provided the fuel for the incredible engine that has driven the immensely successful fish and wildlife restoration and management efforts in this country, and it is a violation of public trust to threaten to cut off that fuel supply after sportsmen across the country have already filled the tank."

MacCallum does not offer advice as to what we can do about this. Perhaps it is time to write to our new legislators, Senators Cowan and Warren, and Representative Neal and ask them to oppose the sequestration of these funds. This will be a good time to see what kind of legislators we have, and whether they will honor the trust which we placed in them.

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It was 25 years ago that the late Al Goerlach and a group of friends decided to put on a game supper to help support the football programs in Dalton and the hill towns. Over the years, all proceeds have gone toward equipment and uniforms.

The game supper will take place again Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Dalton American Legion in Route 9 in Dalton. Tickets cost $15 and are available at the Dalton General Store, or by contacting Mike Sondrini at (413) 684-3524 or Matt Morrison at 684-5052.

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The MassWildlife Basic Hunter Education Course is mandatory for first-time hunters or hunting license buyers in Massachusetts. All courses are free. Students must attend all dates listed. The Worthington Rod & Gun Club on Dingell Road will be holding a course from April 16-19 from 5:30-9 p.m. As of this writing, it is not yet filled. To enroll, call (978) 772-0693.

Is hunting on the decline in Massachusetts? Before answering, please click onto the MassWildlife hunter education web page, and you will see 33 basic courses being taught across the Commonwealth this spring. Every one is filled except the one that is being taught in Worthington.

I am not sure of the maximum size of the classes but assuming that it is 25, then approximately 800 new hunters signed up to take the course and that is just for this spring. They can't keep up with the demand for the course, and there are waiting lists -- and this is in a state with some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation. I don't think hunting is declining at all.

Keeping with MassWildlife hunter education courses, Mike Foley, Fran Tremblay and a few other instructors will be holding a Map and Compass course at the Lenox Sportsmen's Club on New Lenox Road on Saturday, April 6 from 8 a.m-4 p.m. The course is already filled, but call Mass. Wildlife at (978) 772-0693 to get on the waiting list in case someone cancels. Four hours of the course will be held indoors, and after lunch the field course will take place.

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The Lee Sportsmen's Association (LSA) invites you to steak shoots, pork loin shoots as well as traditional turkey or ham shoots. They take place every Sunday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. until March 24. They are $2 shoots, and if you're feeling lucky, try the $3 money shoots. A grill lunch is available. Call Larry K. for details at (413) 442-7807.

To reach Gene Chague:
Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com,
or (413) 637-1818.