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
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
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
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