Wildlife agencies across the nation will reap some of the profits from record-setting gun sales that spiked from late 2008 and well into 2009 after Barack Obama's nomination and election as president.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday that it will distribute more than $472 million to all 50 states and territories for hunting and wildlife conservation and education.

A 10 percent federal excise tax enacted in 1937 on guns, ammunition and archery gear is earmarked for the Wildlife Restoration Program, which provides matching funds to state programs.

A similar federal excise tax on sportfishing equipment, electric outboard motors and boat fuel taxes funds the Sport Fish Restoration Program.

While sportfishing funds available to states in 2010 declined from last year, wildlife program funding is much higher because of the boom in gun and ammo sales, said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials who administer the funds.

The so-called gun hysteria dividend resulted from a bull market for guns and ammo fueled by gun-lobby speculation that an Obama administration would promote firearms restrictions.

While the rest of the economy was in the tank, gun industry profits soared. In January 2009, Black Sheep Sporting Goods in Coeur d'Alene displayed a life-size cutout of Obama behind the gun counter labeled "Salesman of the Year."

Now a portion of the profits are being passed on to state wildlife agencies.

Wildlife Program allocations for 2010 for this region from federal Pittman-Robertson Act funds are:

  • Idaho, $9.2 million, up from $6.5 million last year.
  • Montana, $12.8 million, up from $9 million.
  • Washington, $9.3 million, up from $6.6 million.

Jeff Olsen, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department assistant finance director, said the funding increase is welcome as the agency makes deep budget cuts to cope with the state economic crisis.

But he's holding off on toasting his good fortune.

"While this funding source increased, other federal sources are decreasing," he said. "And the Wildlife (Restoration) funds are dependent on us coming up with matching funds. That's easier said than done this year."

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