New projects in the sights
When he learned that lawmakers had approved a funding change in a segment of the Wildlife Sport Fish Restoration Act (WSFR), Randy Spencer was quick to share the news with regional partners.
They didn’t hesitate to take advantage of the change, either. Now, firearms enthusiasts in Georgia, North Carolina and Kentucky are the first in the nation to enjoy new or enhanced shooting ranges. A fourth proposal in Mississippi is likely to get the go-ahead, too.
Spencer, a WSFR grant specialist who works in the Service’s Atlanta regional office, worked with his state counterparts in acquiring funding from TARMARK, the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act. Approved last year, the act took effect this fiscal year. It authorizes the federal government to offer up to 90 percent of the cost of a shooting-range project, with participating states providing the remaining 10 percent.
This is offered through a federal law dating to 1937, when Congress passed the Pittman-Robertson Act. It directed money from the taxes on the sale of firearms and ammunition to be set aside to fund wildlife restoration, as well as creating a 75-25 funding match.
The shooting range act approved last year sweetens the deal for states by reducing the state match to 10 percent.
The projects in Georgia, North Carolina and Kentucky are good news for shooters, said Spencer.
“They may be moving dirt and building stuff as we speak,” he said.
Work is already underway at the Mike Commander Shooting Range near Albany, Georgia. Total cost of the project, about 180 miles south of Atlanta: nearly $2.8 million, with the federal government picking up 90 percent of the cost. It should be complete in November.
Range improvements include improving the archery course to feature life-sized likenesses of wild game, said Water Lane, assistant chief of game management for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
“We’re improving it, expanding it,” he said. “It’ll accommodate a lot more people.”
A project in North Carolina is not far behind. In April, officials with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission learned that their application for a new, $2.5 million range north of Asheville had been approved.
The range is located in a region that lacked a comparable facility, said Jessie Birckhead, the commission’s land acquisition and grant manager. “It’s been really well received so far,” she said.
In a public hearing in which the commission proposed the range, “we got nothing but positive feedback,” she said.
And, earlier this month, a project to build a range at Veterans Memorial Wildlife Management Area in Georgetown, Kentucky, got the OK. It will cost $2.3 million, with the federal government funding the lion’s share, to build a facility about 10 miles north of Lexington.
Meantime, Spencer anticipates getting an application to expand a range in Mississippi, too.
“There’s an awful lot of folks shooting these days,” he said. “There’s an awful lot of folks needing shooting ranges.”
Mark Davis, Public Affairs Specialist
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