Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze & Observer 11-07-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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SMITHFIELD SCITUATE FOSTER GLOCESTER | VALLEY BREEZE & OBSERVER | NOVEMBER 7-13, 2019 NORTH COUNTY 23 the sport is safer than it used to be, but that hasn't stopped present-day hunters from getting pulled away by the distractions of modern life. "Unfortunately I don't see a lot of hunters in the woods," he told The Valley Breeze. "Years past, I would come across one or two hunters in the woods, but times have changed, so either people are working and don't have recreation time, or maybe there's less hunters." Alves and his son, Matt, are both active hunters, but according to data gathered by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, they're part of a declining trend. From 2000 to 2017, the number of licensed hunters living in Rhode Island fell from 10,530 to 6,291, a 40 percent drop. The num- ber of deer permits purchased by hunters showed a similar drop, from 17,827 in 2000 to 14,391 in 2017. That's concerning news for anyone involved with wildlife conservation, according to Dylan Ferreira, senior wildlife biologist for the RIDEM Division of Fish and Wildlife. In 1937, Congress passed the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, ensuring that the vast majority of state conservation efforts are funded through hunting and fishing activi- ties and firearms sales. Better known as the Pittman-Robertson Act for its sponsors, the law places an 11 per- cent federal excise tax on long guns and ammunition and a 10 percent tax on handguns, earmarking the proceeds for conservation and hunter education. "You have a pot of money that's then distributed to the state and the state agencies from the federal gov- ernment," Ferreira explained. Interest in shooting sports and fire- arms sales have remained strong, but the decline in hunters impacts the amount of money Rhode Island is eligible to receive, he said. Pittman- Robertson funds are distributed in part based on the number of licensed hunters in the state, so states with more hunters can receive more funds. On top of that, states are required to provide a 25 percent match, funds primarily generated through license and permitting fees for hunting and fishing. The end result is that small states such as Rhode Island, which don't generate as much income as larger states with active hunting popula- tions, are sometimes limited in how much they can match and have to turn away federal funds. "Essentially, we're leaving money at the table that we're not using, so it just goes back to the federal govern- ment," said Ferreira. Pittman-Robertson funds are the primary driver of conservation programs in Rhode Island. This year, the state purchased 103 acres abutting Glocester's Durfee Hill Management Area for just over $350,000 and another 16 acres abutting Burrillville's Round Top Management area for $120,000, all with federal and state conservation funds. The act also funds conserva- tion programs for game and non- game species, including the threat- ened New England Cottontail. Once the primary rabbit species in Rhode Island, the New England Cottontail has since been replaced by the more common Eastern Cottontail and fallen prey to development and lack of new forest growth. "With a lot of the urbanization of Rhode Island and the fire manage- ment that we have, there's just less and less habitat for these rabbits," said Ferreira. In addition to funding conservation programs, he said, deer hunting can actually benefit the environment by helping to keep the state's thriving deer population in check. Though it might be difficult for someone outside the hunting community to understand, he said, permitted hunt- ing is all part of a managed conser- vation program statewide. "I think that's one of the main things we have to kind of overcome, is it's hard for someone who's not intimately involved in the process to think that someone who's hunting and maybe harvesting a deer or two deer a year is actually benefitting deer in general and other species." That's one of the reasons the state offers a long list of hunter educa- tion programs, also funded by the Pittman-Robertson Act. In addition to the basic course required to get a hunting license, the Division of Fish and Wildlife offers workshops on everything from marksmanship to wild game cooking, most of them free of charge. Young people aren't hunting much One of the areas of focus is edu- cating young hunters ages 12 to 14. According to Michael DiPietro, the state's hunter safety education coor- dinator, many teenagers today don't have a family background in hunting, so the free programs allow potential new hunters to try out the sport. "Not every kid today has a family member who is into hunting to men- tor them and show them the way," he said. DiPietro, a Hopkinton resident and longtime hunter, spent many years as a volunteer hunter safety instruc- tor and environmental police officer before taking over the position this year. Like Alves, he described hunt- ing as a rite of passage in his family. His own son got his first hunting license just after his 12th birthday, but now, at 16, rarely has the time to head out into the woods. "He plays sports, he plays football, he wrestles and runs track," said DiPietro. "He doesn't have a lot of time for hunting. He hasn't taken it to this point as seriously as I would've liked, but that's because he's distracted with other things." The number of youth hunters in Rhode Island has fluctuated over the years, but the general trend is similar to hunting licenses overall. In 2009, the number of licensed hunters ages 12 to 14 peaked at a five-year high of 183 before dropping to just 78 in 2017. According to DiPietro, that's concerning, since today's young hunt- ers are tomorrow's adult hunting population. Some bright spots There are a few bright spots for hunting in Rhode Island. Though the number of hunters has been in near-constant decline for the past 20 years, fee increases and restruc- turing in the RIDEM's license and permitting system means that the total amount of funds collected from hunting and fishing activities remains more or less steady. In 2017, those activities brought in close to $1.1 million, forming the 25 percent match required by the Pittman- Robertson Act. The decline also appears to be reversing. In 2018, licensed hunters saw their first population growth in six years, increasing to 7,564 hunters from 6,291 in 2017. Youth hunting was also up last year, with 91 hunters compared with 78 the year before. It's too early to tell if the increase will continue, but both DiPietro and Ferreira speculated it might be due to the popularity of the state's new online resources. Hunters can now apply for licenses and take the basic hunter education course online, activities that previously required visiting a vendor or sitting for several hours of classwork. "The bottom line is, we want to get people involved with hunting and to get more hunting licenses," said DiPietro. A new way to conservation? With fewer hunters in the general population, Ferreira questioned whether a new model might eventu- ally be developed to replace some of the lost conservation funds. Activities such as hiking, biking and birding are growing in popularity and bring large numbers of users to state man- agement areas without generating any funds. Some day, he said, other outdoor industries may have to step up if their customers expect to con- tinue benefitting from state programs and lands. "I always think that conservation will be here. I always think we'll have capable people managing. I just don't know how and if the funding will change," he said. HUNTING From Page One ETHAN OSENKOWSKI, of Coventry, takes aim at a flying clay target during a recent Youth Waterfowl Mentored Hunt Training Day hosted by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management at the Great Swamp Shooting Range in West Kingston. The event was supported by hunter education funds from the Pittman-Robertson Act. In your time of need, The Valley Breeze & Observer will print your loved one's full obituary for a small charge. The paper also places the obituary on our web site, valleybreeze.com, as soon as it is provided to us by your family's funeral director. Notification to friends and neighbors is also made weekdays on WOON-AM radio announcements. Should you desire our services, kindly inform your funeral director. The full charge is $90, or $125 for lengthy obituaries, in the edition of your choice. You may place the obituary in any of our other editions for $50 each. Thank you. OBITUARIES 3rd Generation Family Owned and Operated Geoffrey Greene ~ LfD Jennifer Greene faGan ~ LfD 2251 Mineral Spring Avenue, North Providence, RI 231-9307 • www.robbinsfuneralhome.com Birthday Remembrance November 5, 1925 Peter Conti Five years have passed. You are missed and loved every day. Always remembered Your Loving Family

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