The North Country Sportsmen’s Club in Williston on Saturday, August 31, 2019. Photo by Glenn Russell / VTDigger
The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is accepting applications for a total of $ 80,000 in grants to improve the shooting range. The department reimburses selected clubs 75% of the cost of approved improvements.
The scholarship program is closely linked to the department’s hunter training program, said Nicole Meier, specialist in hunter training and public relations at Fish & Wildlife. One of the main goals for this program and for the grants is to ensure that hunters are safe, knowledgeable, and responsible, she said.
“One of the best ways to do this is to provide really safe, high quality, prime locations for new hunters and seasoned hunters to shoot and really improve their skills,” she said.
Nonprofits – including athletes’ clubs, government agencies, and communities – are eligible to apply for a grant through the Grants website, according to a Fish & Wildlife website. Another requirement: organizations that apply must be open to the public.
Increasing access is one of the main goals of the scholarship program, said Meier. Vermonters often turn to the department to ask where to shoot, and although Vermont has many shooting ranges, they don’t always offer public access, she said. “This is how we can ensure that we have really great ranges for the public that, as I said, are safe and really nice.”
Clubs must allow public access for at least 20 hours per month for 10 years after completion of the scholarship-funded work. The Fish & Wildlife website has a list of 30 Vermont public shooting ranges organized by county.
Louis Porter, the Vermont commissioner for fish and wildlife, said the grant program started in 2010. Grants are federally funded through the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act – often called the Pittman-Robertson Act – which adds an 11% excise tax Prescribes sales from gun, ammunition and archery manufacturers, Meier said. The US Fish & Wildlife Service then allocates the money to states based on population, license sales, and hours of volunteer instructor training for the hunter training instructors, Meier said.
But money from the Pittman-Robertson Act funded much more than the scholarship program. Pittman-Robertson funds, money from a federal excise tax on certain fishing gear and revenue from government license sales, “form a kind of backbone to fund all of our conservation efforts,” Porter said.
Grants can be awarded for a variety of reasons, Meier said, including noise abatement, environmental measures like lead reduction, or work to improve safety.
Within a year, the ministry was giving a grant to a club in the northeastern kingdom that had to repair its road that had been partially washed away by a rainstorm. The department approved funding for another club to remodel its clubhouse, including adding bathrooms.
Last year, three clubs received funding, said Meier. Sportsmen Inc. in Guilford was one of the award winners. The club also received money a few years ago to improve the security of the backstop at the end of the 100-yard range and add a 25-yard pistol range, said Herb Meyer, a director of the club.
Increasing security is an important factor in both projects, according to Meyer. But adding a new berm changed the path of sound waves through the area, causing conflict with a neighbor who complained about increased noise.
The club applied for another grant to separate the berm from another nearby, raise it, and change its angle. Although Fish & Wildlife approved the grant, the club still needs to get Act 250 approval before it can lay the foundation.
The North Country Sportsmen’s Club received grant money that same year and is investing it in renovations. The club previously received a grant to work on lead avoidance work.
Another club, Underhill Rod and Gun, has applied for a grant to modernize its sports field facilities, according to club president Jack Chase.
“Sporting Clays is one of the most actively developing shotgun sports around. We wanted to get into that aspect, ”said Chase.
The club wanted to buy equipment that would fire clay pigeons, and Chase said the machines cost between $ 2,000 and $ 3,000 each. The club’s grant application has been approved and the organization has made most of their purchases, Chase said. Now it’s just waiting for the refund.
Porter said Fish & Wildlife had worked to get a wider variety of clubs to apply for funding. He said he believes some clubs are reluctant to apply for a government sponsorship program and the department is trying to make it clear that it is working with existing club leadership.
“We are investing public money in improving reach in exchange for public access, but it is still administered and monitored by the clubs,” Porter said.
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