A hunting grant in Wisconsin could turn the season around.
Recently, we covered a story about Montana and about how that state’s Fish, Wildlife, and Parks division was working to extricate itself from dire financial circumstances. However, while Montana’s situation will likely mean increased license fees for hunters and anglers and fewer park or trail improvements in the coming years, not every state’s wildlife preservation department is facing the same difficulties.
Case in point is Wisconsin, where the Department of Natural resources is eying a new grant that would seek to funnel $100,000 into hunting programs around the state, all in an effort to improve hunting safety and to boost hunter recruitment and retention.
The new Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources program – revealingly titled “the Hunter Recruitment, Development, Training, and Education Grant Program” – would work on a biennial basis. The program would have a two-year budget of $200,000 that could then be distributed among any number of hunting organizations and clubs, wildlife conservation groups, or even to towns and colleges willing to establish hunter support programs. Grants would be capped at $10,000 each, with grant denominations of anything under that amount being possible depending on the scope of the organization or project seeking funding.
Soon, the DNR will post grant rules on its website for all to see. After a temporary public review period, the grant program would plan to go live in the late winter, with applications for funding being accepted starting March 3. Ideally, grant proposals would be able to be approved starting this year. Whether the two-year $200,000 funding program would begin on March 3, with the first proposals, or on the first day one of those proposals was awarded funding, has not yet been made clear.
This isn’t the first time Wisconsin has attempted a funding support program for hunters. The last program, an ill-fated initiative called the “Sporting Heritage Grant,” was allotted half a million dollars in the 2013-2015 state budget. However, the guidelines for which organizations were and were not allowed to apply for funding were extremely strict and restrictive, leaving many hunting clubs and conservation groups out in the cold. Only one group actually applied for a grant, and when it was found that that group also failed to meet the program’s rules, both the grant and the program were canned.
The Hunter Recruitment, Development, Training, and Education Grant Program is taking a different approach, opening up funding possibilities for a wide range of organizations with an overarching goal of “spreading the wealth” among a plethora of different entities. The money could end up being used for any number of uses, from supporting hunter education courses to establishing hunter recruitment groups on college campuses. Ultimately the aims of the grant program – “to ensure the education and development of safe and ethical hunters” and to increase the number of active hunters throughout Wisconsin – are the same, no matter where the money ends up.
Best of all, the $200,000 biennial budget for the grant program won’t present any sort of added imposition against taxpayers. Instead, the funds will be drawn from existing federal excise taxes paid on the purchase of guns, ammunition, and other pieces of hunting gear.