February 17, 2013 in Outdoors

Out & About: Obama gun frenzy pays conservation dividend

By The Spokesman-Review
Seth Perlman photo

This Jan. 16 file photo shows John Jackson, co-owner of Capitol City Arms Supply, with an AR-15 rifle for sale at his business in Springfield, Ill. From Oregon to Mississippi, President Barack Obama’s proposed ban on new assault weapons and large-capacity magazines struck a nerve among rural lawmen and lawmakers, many of whom vowed to ignore any restrictions and even try to stop federal officials from enforcing gun policy in their jurisdictions.
(Full-size photo)

Obama gun flap boosts habitat

OUTTAX – State fish and wildlife agencies across the country are direct beneficiaries of the unprecedented spike in firearms sales spurred by President Obama’s 2008 election.

As the gun lobby spread rumors that Obama would promote gun bans, sales skyrocketed, and so did the tax receipts associated to the sales of firearms, ammunition and archery gear.

In 1937, during the Great Depression, sportsmen backed the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (Pittman-Robertson Act), which channeled an 11 percent federal excise tax on guns, ammo and archery gear to fund wildlife habitat conservation and hunter safety programs.

Through 2012, the tax generated $8.1 billion passed on to state wildlife programs through this act.

• The tax’s receipts for federal wildlife restoration program were $347 million in 2008, the last year of the Bush administration.

• In 2009, the receipts spiked to $484.8 million during Obama’s first term.

• Receipts slipped to $396.6 million in 2010 and further to $388.2 million in 2010 as the forecasted Obama gun crackdown never happened.

• However, in 2012 the tax receipts shot up to a record $553.2 million, prompted by Obama’s re-election and a last-quarter blitz spurred by the national debate on assault rifles after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

The buying frenzy continued, making the first quarter of 2013 a peak period for gun-sale receipts, said Steve Barton, Wildlife and Restoration Funds coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“We could be looking at another annual record for Wildlife Restoration Act funding,” he said.

Olympia debates State Parks future

OUTFUND – Washington State Parks will celebrate their centennial this year, but the future of the state park system is in the hands of the 2013 Washington Legislature.

At least two bills are being debated in Olympia to help restore state funding to the parks system to prevent park closures.

Two years ago, the Legislature began weaning the parks system from taxpayer funding. The Discover Pass vehicle permit was created to make up the difference, but sales of the pass haven’t lived up to those forecasts.

Bills have been introduced to restore about $27 million in funding that was lost. Bill sponsors say the funding would prevent state park closures, at least in the short term.

Parks officials have estimated they will have to close at least 30 of the state’s 100 parks if state funding is not restored.

Free ice fishing at Hauser Lake

OUTCATCH – If ice conditions continue to be safe, the Idaho Fish and Game Department and volunteer partners are sponsoring a free ice-fishing opportunity Saturday at Hauser Lake.

Fishing gear will be provided and no fishing license will be required during the event from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

The hot dogs and hot chocolate will be free, too.

The Panhandle Region’s Take Me Fishing trailer with gear for anglers of all ages will be parked at the public-access site.

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