Shooting range funding, 2007 Special Session
On 5/11/2007, the House Appropriations Committee took testimony about the state budget, House Bill 2.
Representative Jack Wells (R-Bozeman) asked Department of Fish,
Wildlife and Parks Director Jeff Hagener why funding for shooting
ranges was not more generous.
"Over the last -- since 1991 when this program was instituted we have
authorized and spent $1.5 million on shooting ranges. The actual
average for that biennium over that time frame has been $171,000.
The highest ever that we've had an appropriation for was
$320,000. In all but two years during that biennium, we have not
had enough grant requests to spend all the money. Only in two
years have we actually exceeded that amount. So we're looking at
the 266,000 amount is an amount that fits within the context of what
we've spent in the past on that."
"We have never -- any grant that has come in has either been funded in
that given year or was funded in the next year. So it isn't like
we've had a great excess of grants that have not gotten funded.
There have been some that didn't. They came back a second
time. But in the long run, if we shift around and start putting
more money into that, it puts an issue on the overall budget." MP3 audio file of Hagener's comments is HERE.
Shooting range funding HISTORY, 1991 to 2007 (MSWord, .doc file)
Note: Director Hagener claims FWP has spent $1.5 million on
shooting ranges since 1991, but also that FWP had rarely been able to
expend all the funds the Legislature appropriates. Since 1991,
the Legislature has appropriated $1,486,884 for shooting ranges.
Note further: If the Legislature has appropriated $1.48M for
ranges since 1991 and FWP has spent $1.5M since 1991, what truth can
there be to the testimony by Director Hagener that FWP is rarely able
to expend all the money the Legislature appropriates?
Note further yet: FYI (05/11/2007), FWP currently has
$450,000 in shooting range grant applications waiting for
funding. Director Hagener testified that $266,000 will satisfy
current demand for range funding.
Also see - Montana law, the Shooting Range Development Act, says:
87-1-279. Program rules. (1) The department may not use more than 15% of the program funds for administration.
(2) The department shall develop a simple application procedure and accountability system.
department shall make every effort to expend or obligate funds for
shooting range improvement grants within the year for which they are
(4) The department shall prioritize grant
applications according to those that provide facilities for the
greatest number of shooters, that accommodate the use of a combination
of hunting arms, and that meet other criteria established by the
(5) The department may not grant more than 30%
of the eligible funds for the establishment or improvement of any
single facility in any year.
(6) The department shall promote the use of
publicly owned land for shooting range facilities. The department may
negotiate with federal, state, and local agencies to encourage land
trades, shared or specific use designations, and other mechanisms to
provide land for shooting range facilities.
Text of my email to Director Hagener - June 5, 2007
Jeff Hagener, Director
Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Greetings from Missoula.
Now that Governor Schweitzer has signed House Bill 2 from the Special
Session, we are finally certain that the level of funding for the
Shooting Range Development Program (SRDP) is at the level we requested
from the Legislature. Now, we wonder how FWP will implement the
utilization of this funding at a higher level than FWP had planned.
Ron Aasheim has explained to me that FWP feels constrained by promises
he says have been made to the Governor and the Legislature to hold off
subsequent license fee increases until 2011. This agreement,
coupled with the increased SRDP funding, Ron says, will necessitate FWP
reductions in other FWP spending areas. Ron asked for suggestions
about what other spending FWP could consider for reduction. My
only suggestion is that FWP compare income and expenditures between
hunting and fishing programs. If one is financially carrying or
subsidizing the other, then the one being subsidized would be logical
candidate for reduction (I consider the SRDP to be within the hunting
arena, not the fishing arena).
I understand that FWP currently has about $453,000 in pending and valid
requests for SRDP grants. The Legislature appropriated $450,000
for the SRDP for Fiscal Year 2008, and another $450,000 for FY
2009. Plus, I understand that there is another $100,000 for the
SRDP in the FWP "Base" budget.
I presume FWP plans to flush through the funding of the pending
applications as soon as the money becomes available on July 1,
2007. If that is correct, then the only remaining questions is
how and through what process FWP will utilize the remaining $550,000.
I recommend that FWP announce very soon that it will be reopening the
application process for the SRDP, either by a date specific and soon,
or as soon as applicants can prepare and submit applications (with no
It may be worth refreshing memories about a provision in state law,
enacted as a part of the Shooting Range Development Act:
"87-1-279. Program rules. (3) The department shall
make every effort to expend or obligate funds for shooting range
improvement grants within the year for which they are appropriated."
If the $100,000 in the FWP Base is split evenly between FY 2008 and
2009, that would leave FWP an additional $47,000 to expend during FY
2008 (after the $453,000 pending), and $500,000 to expend in FY
2009. The more time applicants can be given to prepare
applications for the FY 2009 availability, the better.
Ron was candid enough with me to admit that one of the options being
evaluated by FWP is to not spend the funds appropriated by the
Legislature for shooting ranges, after pending applications are
satisfied. This does not appear to be a viable option as it would
seem to be a violation of 87-1-279. The Legislature is the voice
of the people. The people, via the Legislature, have determined
that $1,000,000 of hunter license dollars be spent on the SRDP this
biennium. Therefore, it is highly recommended that the option to
spend SRDP money on other programs, or not spend it at all, be dropped
from consideration by FWP.
As soon as FWP determines how it will proceed with solicitation of
further SRDP applications, please let me know and MSSA will help spread
that information. If you are interested, MSSA has accumulated
quite a bit of information about Montana Shooting Ranges, including the
SRDP, on our Website, at:
I would be pleased to discuss any of this with you if that would be helpful.
Gary Marbut, president
Montana Shooting Sports Association
author, Gun Laws of Montana
Director Hagener's reply - June 15, 2007 (PDF file)
FWP Range Program letter text, June 19, 2007 (MSWord version)
(Note the last line: "FWP will continue to accept grant proposals until May 1, 2008. At that
time FWP will make a decision whether or not to award additional grants.")
(Additional note: The author of this letter, Kurt Cunningham,
is the FWP employee who actually administers the Shooting Range
Development Program. He works for Director Hagener and must do as
Hagener directs. I'm sure Kurt's letter [below] was vetted by FWP
administration before it was sent. Cunningham has always been friendly
to the SRDP, unlike some other FWP personnel.)
1420 East Sixth Avenue
Helena MT 59620
June 19, 2007
Dear Shooting Range and Sportsmen’s Club Members,
Many of you may have heard about recent legislation dealing with
Montana’s Shooting Range Grants Program. Because of your
interest, I wanted to update you on those actions, but first a brief
bit of background that might be helpful.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has administered a Shooting Range
Grants Program since 1990. The program provides 1 to 1 matching grants
to shooting organizations. In the first 18 years of the program
(through 2007) nearly 1.5 million dollars have been awarded for over
100 projects at over 50 sites. State matching dollars come from
the general hunting and fishing license account managed by FWP.
State matching dollars, authorized by Montana's Legislature have ranged
from 119,000 to 320,000 biennially or for a 2-year period.
Typically requests have roughly equaled dollars authorized, although in
the last two bienniums, requests did exceed available funding.
The 2007 Legislature authorized 1 million dollars for the 2008-2009
biennium. FWP has received eligible requests with matching
dollars available from 20 organizations totaling roughly $450,000; we
will award those grants shortly to allow projects to begin.
FWP very much appreciates the value and benefits that Montana's
shooting range program brings to Montana’s hunting community. FWP
nonetheless faces a serious financial dilemma.
With the approval of a resident fee increase in 2005 the Legislature
and Governor instructed FWP to limit expenditures and growth to
preclude the need for another general license fee increase until at
least the 2011 session. That means FWP must sustain existing
programs until then with projected income.
The dilemma, which FWP faces, relates to the fact that spending
authorized for Shooting Range Grants by the 2007 Legislature is roughly
3 times what FWP had anticipated. Based on current projections, if we
spend the remaining $550,000 that were authorized by the 2007
Legislature on shooting ranges we would need to cut other programs or
potentially request a fee increase earlier than instructed.
Given this financial situation, FWP will have to monitor income and
expenditures throughout the coming fiscal year (July 1, 2007 through
June 30, 2008) before making a final decision on whether to spend the
additional $550,000 authorized.
So what does this mean? FWP will continue to accept grant
proposals until May 1, 2008. At that time FWP will make a decision
whether or not to award additional grants.
If you have questions please give me a call at 444-1267.
FWP Shooting Range Grant Coordinator