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CASH Courier > 1995-1996 Autumn - Winter Issue

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The C.A.S.H. Courier

Autumn - Winter 1994-1995 Issue

BLOOD MONEY

By the Georgia Earth Alliance

The U.S. government has taxed firearms and ammunition for 57 years. However, instead of preventing crime and assisting crime victims with the revenue, it has diverted the $1.7 billion (plus 600 million from the states) to dish up living targets for recreational killers-hunters.

Wild, free animals of forests and fields belong to you. No one owns them and public land more than you do. The Supreme Court decided in 1842 that government holds wildlife in trust for all the people. Yet if you purchase a handgun, a long gun, or ammunition, you pay an excise tax into a program that destroys many of America’s wild animals and distorts the habitats of even more. You don’t buy guns? State government subsidizes hunters with your general taxes anyway.

Congress spawned a Frankenstein when it passed the 1937 Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, better known as the Pittman-Robertson Act (P-R).

Hidden in firearms and ammunition prices is a 10-11% tax. Gun factories pay the tax to the U.S. Treasury’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which passes the dollars to the Interior Department Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Federal Aid. Next to the money is channeled as grants to “game” departments in the states in order to finance fed-approved, state-run wildlife “projects.” The money is allocated to a state game agency in direct proportion to how many hunting licenses it sold the previous year.

To every three Federal Aid dollars a state receives, it adds one dollar from its treasury.

P-R pays for “game management” in the states. Unnecessary and ecologically destructive, the pseudoscience of game management was defined by the forester who invented it in the 1930’s as “the art of making land produce sustained annual crops of wildlife for harvest.”

But everyone’s wild animals are not like so much corn. Nature is more than deer or ducks.

In Georgia, for example, P-R Project W-36 consists of a system of 70 hunter playgrounds (Wildlife Management Areas) where the Department of Natural Resources Game Management Section (DNR-GM) systematically “grows” wild animals for shooting by the greatest number of hunters that it is able to license. Natural public land is manipulated (with chainsaws, bulldozers, bullets, computer formulas, and fire) to overflow with populations of a few target species, like deer.

Many people believe that deer need old, big woods for living places. However, deer populations are densest where the landscape is an artificial crazy quilt of young woods and cutovers, brush and fields.

In logging’s weedy aftermath, more bright sunlight at the first floor causes quantities of deer browse (food) and consequently deer numbers to explode. Crowded deer spill out of such “game” lands, colliding with cars and devouring farm crops. Meanwhile, populations of many songbirds – ones that require undisturbed mature forests for homes (e.g., wood warblers, veeries and vireos) – are crashing.

In fiscal 1994, gun buyers and Georgia general taxpayers paid DNR-GM to burn 40,000 acres of natural vegetation to burn 40,000 acres of natural vegetation that didn’t fit in with the game managers’ plans. Burnt, broken state forests would gradually heal and age if DNR-GM would leave them alone. Cutting public forest on just one of the 70 tracts is making the GAP-R program more than $500,000 over 5 years. DNR-GM built itself a new headquarters at Social Circle, GA, partly with timber proceeds. For food sources, 119,000 shrubs of aggressively invading Asian species are being planted. Yet an Executive Order prohibits public agencies from introducing the exotic organisms. Pets that wander onto 80,000 unfenced, DNR controlled acres could be captured and transported to county humane shelters. Instead, DNR-GM receives P-R dollars to shoot them.

Georgia state government invites citizens to believe that it’s “protecting” public land from “development.” Nationally, only 1/7 of P-R funds have been spent to buy land. The bulk goes into “developing” acres for gunners: erecting blinds, fences, gates, buildings; cultivating clover and wheat food plots with tractors and harrows.

P-R projects must “benefit hunting or hunter education commensurate with project cost.” Rigid controls described in the Federal Aid Manual ensure that hunters call the shots. If, for instance, a state decides to dedicate as wilderness or wildlife sanctuary land purchased with P-R funds, or to prohibit predator control or burning there, or to place the interests of (say) hikers, campers, horseback riders and wildlife watchers on a par with hunter demands for the property, FWS Federal Aid can require the state to replace the land with a similar tract or it can threaten to withdraw all the millions of dollars it grants to the state.

Good Wholesome Family Fun?!

Should we be maintaining these “traditional values?” If you find there is a drive to protect a tract of land, you must demand that there not be any P-R money in the funding mix. If one cent of P-R money is in the mix, all other land uses will be subordinated to hunting. P-R law requires that paychecks in a state game department come from the hunting licenses it sells. DNR-GM represents hunters, but in so doing, does it represent the 95+% of Georgians who don’t buy licenses and who “own” the animals and public land? Programs like P-R that use earmarked taxes are bad ideas. Deer herds would never have been manipulated into the present overpopulation if game manager had had to justify their funding within a framework of competing public interest.

Handguns, little used for hunting, account for about 40% of P-R tax receipts. A bill before Congress in 1983 would, if passed have put the handgun portion into a fund to help crime victims. DNR-GM and the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies helped defeat the bill.

Prospective gun/ammunition customers can reconsider.

Congress can re-aim gun taxes, turning them to constructive purposes. The sooner that happens, the better it will be for America’s people, forests, and embattled wild animals.

THE GEORGIA EARTH ALLIANCE (GEA) IS A PRO-ANIMAL, NATURE PRESERVATION ORGANIZATION. THEY CAN BE REACHED AT POB 1231, FAYETTEVILLE, GA 30214-6231.

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