More high-quality shooting opportunities for the public are on the way thanks to a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources cost-share grant program for public and private shooting ranges.
The Shooting Range Grant Program is funded by the Wildlife Restoration Grant, also known as the Pittman-Robertson, which is a fund supported by a 10 to 11 percent excise tax on firearms and ammunition.
For the first time in several years, this money has been made available to increase public access to quality, safe shooting opportunities throughout the state and improving both public and private shooting ranges.
The DNR is awarding 12 shooting ranges full or partial funding for their projects ranging from $1,500 to $84,000. A total of nearly $280,000 will be spent on all the projects combined.
With an estimated 800,000 shooters and hunters in Wisconsin and recent strong growth in interest in shooting, providing access to safe, quality places to shoot is a priority for the DNR.
“The best place for someone to learn to shoot and to practice shooting is at a well-managed and maintained range,” Keith Warnke, DNR hunting and shooting sports coordinator, said. “This grant program will help range operators and clubs provide high quality shooting opportunities around the state.”
The Shooting Range Grant Program can cost-share up to 50 percent of approved renovation and development costs at private ranges and up to 75 percent at publicly owned ranges.
Counties, cities, villages, townships, other governmental agencies or units, clubs or organizations, businesses or corporations and educational institutions are eligible for this program. The money is available for projects on privately owned ranges. Publicly owned range projects will be evaluated and funded on a case by case basis and will not affect the amount of money available for the grant program.
Eligible projects include but are not limited to: backstops, berms, target holders, baffles, gun racks, signs, field courses, benches, trap and skeet houses, platforms, sanitary facilities, classrooms, protective fencing, storage areas, shelters, parking, accessible pathways and support facilities.
Project costs must be commensurate with benefit. Indoor range projects will be considered for funding at the department’s discretion.
Grant winners must comply with federal law and must have as the primary purpose to “teach the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary to be a responsible hunter” or “construct, operate, or maintain firearm and archery ranges for public use.”
Ranges must be open to the public (non-members) a minimum of 100 days per year. Range operators may charge a reasonable fee during the open hours.
At the completion of each project, all facilities at the range must be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the National Environmental Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Historic Preservation Act and other federal requirements as appropriate.
Grant applications were scored on factors such as the proximity of the range to population centers and the amount of public shooting opportunity the range will provide.
Other factors include the demonstration of need, amount of public support, cost, hunter education need, size of the project and number of different shooting opportunities at the facility.
“One of the most obvious needs is to increase opportunities for shooters and hunters close to home,” Warnke says. “Our few public ranges in southern Wisconsin are heavily used. In addition to looking to build new public ranges, we believe by partnering with private ranges, we can expand access to shooting and improve the facilities for everyone who uses them.”