H unting and anglers remain the greatest conservationists of natural resources and game species — a fact rooted in actual numbers and hard data – specifically the billions of dollars that have been poured back into conservation efforts and habitat restoration through sporting goods taxes.
Dove hunting and deer hunting in Texas alone pump hundreds of millions of dollars into our local economy, and while that number includes valuable funds headed to outfitters and mom-and-pop shops, the federal taxes generated by the overall hunting and angling industry end up going back into state coffers earmarked for needed resource protections and improvements.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service annually distributes revenue to each state’s wildlife agency through the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration and Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration programs, with funds coming from excise taxes on the sale of sporting firearms, ammunition, archery and fishing equipment, electric boat motors and taxes on the purchase of motorboat fuel. This year’s total of $1.1 billion in disbursements includes $50,198,179 coming to our state, the highest appropriation in the country. The total includes $32,144,324 for wildlife restoration and $18,053,855 for sportfish restoration.
The overall figure is actually down slightly from the more than $54 million Texas received in 2015, but it certainly will be put to good use.
The Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program reimburses as much as 75 percent of the cost of each eligible project, while state fish and wildlife agencies contribute a minimum of 25 percent, generally using hunting and fishing license revenues as the required non-federal match. Funding is paid by manufacturers, producers and importers and is distributed by the Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program to each state and territory.
The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs have generated more than $18 billion since their inception — 1937 for the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program and 1950 for the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Program — to conserve resources. State agencies have matched these program funds with more than $5 billion.
Pittman-Robertson funds allow the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s Wildlife Division to offer many services, including technical guidance to private landowners who control 94 percent of wildlife habitat in Texas, TPWD surveys and research for development of hunting regulations, operation and management of Wildlife Management Areas and conducting research and developing techniques for managing wildlife populations and wildlife habitat.
The Sport Fish Restoration Program supports monitoring of sport fish populations, their habitats and public use of fishery resources. Data and information collected from fishery management surveys are used to set fish harvest regulations, develop fish stocking plans and design projects that restore and enhance aquatic habitats.
Through support from the Sport Fish Restoration Program, TPWD has developed nationally recognized programs in applied research for the study of freshwater and coastal fisheries. These programs conduct special investigations of unique problems identified through fisheries management surveys and develop and evaluate projects focused on expanding and improving sport fishing in the State.
Other programs that benefit from the funds include projects that increase or improve access to public waters and the operation of freshwater hatcheries and coastal hatcheries which produce and stock more than 40 million fish annually in state lakes, ponds and bays. Those fish are stocked to establish populations and enhance existing ones, support research efforts and maintain put-and-take and put-grow-and-take fisheries in small urban reservoirs, which is how many youngsters are introduced to the pastime.
These funding streams are vital to future success and it’s up to hunters and anglers to continue our support of state and federal initiatives that pump millions of dollars into efforts to maintain and improve our opportunities. It also is imperative to stay abreast of any encroachment on those funding streams, which has been discussed by legislators and other special-interest groups in regards to diverting dollars for other projects.
The wildlife and sportfish funds were earmarked for specific intentions and should always stay that way.
Email Will Leschper at
Ducks Unlimited announced the winners of the 2016 Wetland Conservation Achievement Awards during the 81st North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference held in Pittsburgh, Pa. This year’s recipient in the research/technical category is Dr. Bart Ballard, professor and research scientist in the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
“Dr. Ballard has spent his career focused on waterfowl and wetland biology, ecology and management,” said DU Chief Conservation Officer Paul Schmidt. “With numerous published scientific contributions and an impressive cadre of mentored graduate students in prominent waterfowl and wetland conservation positions across the country, there is no doubt Dr. Ballard deserves this recognition.”
Ballard holds the C. Berdon and Rolanette Lawrence Endowed Chair in Waterfowl Research and has been on faculty at Texas A&M University-Kingsville since 2002.
“Dr. Ballard’s contributions to waterfowl biology, ecology and management have been numerous in a relatively short time,” Schmidt added. “In particular, his contributions toward understanding wintering ecology of northern pintail along the Gulf Coast of Texas and the biology of Western Gulf Coast mottled ducks have been important for guiding waterfowl habitat conservation in one of DU’s highest priority landscapes.”
Dr. Ballard also devotes much service time to the Gulf Coast Joint Venture, Texas Colonial Waterbird Society, North American Reddish Egret Recovery, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Game Bird Advisory Committee, and the Texas Chapter of the Wildlife Society, of which he served as President from 2009-10. He was instrumental in initiating the formation of and served as the Faculty Advisor to Texas A&M University- Kingsville’s Ducks Unlimited Chapter.
“I’m honored to be recognized by such a prestigious conservation organization and deeply moved to have been nominated by some of my former students,” Ballard said. “My accomplishments are the result of collaborations with many students and colleagues over the years and they share this award with me. I am grateful to have been engaged with so many dedicated and passionate conservationists.”
—by Andi Coo
We call the outdoors scene in this great state “Texas Outdoor Nation” for a reason. Texas is not only like a country unto itself geographically but it is also totally unique in diversity, innovation and just plain cool.
Here are some facts and figures that should make you happy to live here or want to get here as fast as you can.
• Depending on range conditions Texas is home to between 3.5 and 4 million whitetail deer. That is by far the largest in the U.S.
• Texas was the first state to have saltwater hatcheries and remains the innovator in the field of producing redfish, speckled trout and now southern flounder.
• The Texas state record all-tackle alligator garfish (302 pounds) also stands as the world record.
• We are home to bass fishing champions. Rick Clunn, Larry Nixon, Tommy Martin and Alton Jones are either from Texas or lived here during their championship reigns. Recently B.A.S.S. legend and Classic champ Denny Brauer moved to Texas to spend more time on his beloved Lake Amistad.
• Texas may have the image throughout the national media to be a dry, desolate land but in fact much of the state is forest. In fact Texas now ranks only behind Alaska as having forestland with a whopping 60 million acres. East Texas alone has 12 million acres of property considered timber.
• Exotic hunting originated in Texas with the import of blackbuck antelope, axis deer, aoudad sheep another species by private holdings like the YO Ranch. There are currently 35 huntable exotic species here with populations of certain species skyrocketing. Free-ranging axis deer (those outside of high fences) are flourishing in Kerr, Uvalde, Real, Medina and Bandera Counties.
• At the time of this writing there have been 564 largemouth bass weighing 13 pounds or more donated to the Sharelunker Program. This program was founded in 1986. Lake Fork represents nearly half of all entries.
• Speaking of Texas-sized bass, state officials have a program called “Operation World Record” that seeks to create a world record largemouth here. They do much of the research at a “secret” facility at the Luminant Project where a lake is stocked only with Sharelunker fingerlings.
• Waterfowl hunting is a big deal here. According to Ducks Unlimited officials, just about every county in Texas produced at least one band recovery. The top five counties were 1. Jefferson, 2. Fort Bend, 3. Wharton, 4. Calhoun and 5. Chambers.
• Texas is tops for turkey. There are more than 500,000 Rio Grande turkey as well as a population of easterns in the Pineywoods. In addition there are rumored to be some Merriam’s in the extreme western portion of the state.
• Texas once had its own wolf species. Canis lupus monstrablis, the “Texas Wolf” went extinct by the 1940s but was once common in Central and northern counties.
• Texas has some unique wildlife laws on the books. Did you know it was illegal to shoot a buffalo from a second story hotel window? Seriously.
• In a recent survey one if five Texans said they owned more than five guns. Some 17 percent answered “preferred not to say”.
• Texas has the story of the Alamo. There is no similar story of such heroism and bravery for Iowa or Wyoming. Texas’s independence is equal is as legendary as the famous battles of the Revolutionary War.
• According to a recent study, you are more likely to be killed by “hands and feet” than guns in Texas despite Texans having more guns than anyone else.
• Texas has more feral hogs than any other state with a lowball estimate of 3 million. Texans are harvesting about 750,000 hogs a year. There are more hogs killed in Texas than live in any other state besides Florida which has about 1.5 million hogs.
• According to the Congressional Research Service, Texas has 367 miles of coastline. When factoring in bay coastline the number skyrockets to 3,359 miles.
• There are nine varieties of rattlesnakes in Texas: -prairie rattler, western diamondback, Mojave, timber rattler, western massasauga, desert massasauga, mottled rock rattlesnake, banded rock rattlesnake and the blacktail rattlesnake.
• The Texas state record for snook is 57 pounds and was caught by Louis Rawalt in 1937. That is bigger than the Florida record of 44 pounds, 3 ounces.