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Funding Dilemma

for Nongame Wildlife Conservation & Management

Hunters and anglers fund the majority of fish and wildlife management and conservation activities conducted by FWP through the purchase of hunting licenses. License dollars are matched with federal funds from excise taxes on guns, ammunition, and angling equipment. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides additional, but limited funds to help recover wildlife species listed under the Endangered Species Act. The good news is that many FWP management activities that are funded through hunting and fishing licenses provide enormous benefits to nongame species as well as game species through habitat protection and enhancement.  On the flip side, projects funded with nongame targeted dollars such as state wildlife grant funds, benefit not only warblers, frogs and small mammals, but also white-tailed deer and upland game birds.

See the 2019 Montana Outdoor report titled ‘Recovering America’s Wildlife Act’ on YouTube.

See also the Montana Outdoors Story An Act of Finding Common Groundby Tom Dickson in the March April 2019 issue.

New ideas for funding work on nongame species conservation abound. One of the newest and most promising ideas include proposed federal legislation that could bring more than $25 million new dollars annually to MFWP. The proposed Recovering American's Wildlife Act legislation is based on recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel for Conserving America’s Wildlife.The federal Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would dedicate more than $25 million annually to fully implement Montana’s State Wildlife Action plan, increase opportunities for wildlife associated recreation and advance wildlife conservation education programs. Passage of this bill would benefit all Montanans and provide opportunities for future generations to see amazing wildlife, live surrounded by healthy wildlife habitat and enjoy the outdoors.

Click here to learn more about the Recovering America's Wildlife Act.

FWP has limited funding specifically for research and monitoring efforts on Montana's nongame wildlife species. The first nongame biologist hired by FWP in 1974 had to cover all nongame species in the entire state of Montana with a very limited budget. This started to change in 1983, when the legislature passed a new law that allowed Montanans to donate a part ($2, $5, or $10) of their tax refund to nongame research, monitoring, and education efforts through a checkoff on their state income tax forms. Donations were further facilitated in 1985, with an amendment that added a blank space to the check-off to allow donations for any dollar amount. In 1987, the Nongame Wildlife Funding bill was passed which permanently reauthorized the Nongame Wildlife Checkoff, unless repealed. Annual donations over the last 20 years have averaged around $27,000 with a high contribution year in 2008 of over $50,000 in donations. Montana’s relatively small human population really limits the total amount of funding generated by the Nongame Wildlife Checkoff but any amount helps.

FWP stretches these precious contributions by working cooperatively with others and using these non-federal dollars as match for federal ones. Nongame Wildlife Checkoff funds are typically matched several times over by a combination of federal funds and grants, in-kind contributions and funds from private nonprofit organizations, universities and private businesses. Checkoff contributions provide an important source of the nonfederal match required by the State Wildlife Grants (SWG) program and other federal grants.

The Nongame Wildlife Checkoff will continue to provide a vital source of funding for nongame wildlife monitoring and research in the future. The Nongame Wildlife Checkoff also provides an important source of funding for popular watchable wildlife products such as posters, books, bird checklists, and brochures.