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Vetoes could impact Alaska's wildlife programs
Friday, August 16th 2019, 9:32 PM AKDT
Updated: Friday, August 16th 2019, 11:16 PM AKDTBy: Cassie Schirm
Gov. Mike Dunleavy will soon announce whether he will accept the Legislature's $1,600 Permanent Fund dividend or veto it. The PFD is part of a larger budget bill aimed at restoring some of his $400 million-plus vetoes. Some of those cuts have wildlife advocates worried about the possible impact to Alaska's wildlife programs.
In June, the governor vetoed more than $6.4 million budgeted for the state's wildlife and environmental health services. Without part of that funding, the state will miss out on millions of dollars available through the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act.
The money the state gets from this federal program is used for hunting and fishing related projects including wildlife counts. The fund is a collection of a federal tax on rifles, shotguns, ammunition, archery equipment and hunting license fees.
The tax goes into a separate fund that is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It operates on what is collected, not on deficit spending or congressional intervention.
• Over $980,000 in hunter education programs
• Over $2 million in public and hunter information services
• More than $300,000 in wildlife health and disease surveillance
• $455,000 in Refuges and Special Area Management
• Over $5 million in wildlife conservation coordination
For Alaska to keep getting this money, the state has to contribute a 25% match. Nicole Schmitt with Alaska Wildlife Alliance says these federal funds do a lot for Alaskans and the state's wildlife.
"The research that comes out of these Pittman-Robertson projects goes towards a number of different things," she said. "They're shared with federal agencies, they're used to inform management decision like the Board of Game, they're used on local issues as well. TSo, they're very diverse in their impact and losing them would be a real detriment to understanding the health of Alaska's wildlife population and making sure that we're tracking that in the long term."
Dunleavy vetoed $300,000 allocated for the grant. The Legislature then allocated $300,000 again — within House Bill 2001 that is currently sitting on the governor's desk.
Advocates hope the money will not get vetoed again so research can continue across the state.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated it was Senate Bill 2001 that awaits the governor's signature.
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