Michael A. Sawyers
CUMBERLAND — The Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service will receive about 1 million federal dollars derived from an excise tax on the sale of firearms and ammunition, according to Director Paul Peditto.
Record firearms sales took place in Maryland during the first nine months of the year as residents lined up to buy handguns and military style rifles. On Oct. 1, a state law made handgun purchasing more difficult and prohibited certain rifles.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services considers the physical size of a state and the number of licensed hunters when allocating the funds obtained via an 11 percent excise tax on guns and ammo.
“That amount of funding means a 10 percent bump in our total budget,” Peditto said. “The bad news is that all it will do for us is allow us to avoid bouncing checks in the future. It will make up a gap created when we burned our reserve during the past couple years.”
The agency, a part of the Department of Natural Re-sources, has cut staff and operations in recent years because of fiscal difficulties.
Attempts in 2012 and 2013 to increase the cost of hunting licenses for the first time in 20 years failed at the General Assembly.
Peditto said he doesn’t know of a state senator or delegate willing to introduce such a bill in the upcoming session.
The federal funding is available because of the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act enacted in the 1930s.
“This is the hunters’ money and we will use it for hunting programs,” Peditto said. “We have plans to amp up efforts to recruit and retain young hunters and female hunters.”
Programs such as Junior Hunter Field Days and Becoming an Outdoor Woman will be expanded, according to Peditto.
Efforts will be made as well to keep senior hunters afield.
Peditto expects some new programs to be operating in six to nine months that will broaden the horizons of those who already hunt.
“If there is someone who has only been a waterfowl hunter, we’ll give them the chance to learn more about strategies and tools used to become an effective turkey hunter or deer hunter,” he said. “Someone who has been solely a bowhunter for deer can learn techniques to make a muzzleloader more accurate and effective or how to sight in a scope.
“Staff time will be involved, of course, but cash from the federal funds will be used for things such as purchasing pheasants to stock.”
Contact Michael A. Sawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org.