The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) has a Shooting Range Development Program (SRDP). Here is the FWP Webpage for the program.
The SRDP began in 1989. The purpose is to use a bit of Montana hunter license fee income for FWP to make matching grants to local entities to construct or improve shooting ranges.
This Webpage is intended to answer many questions about the SRDP.
Where does the funding come from? Money for the SRDP is appropriated by the Montana Legislature every two years from money paid by hunters in Montana for hunting licenses.
Who handles the program? The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Conservation Education Division.
Why them? Sportsmen who originated the program and who drafted the enabling legislation selected FWP as the agency to administer the program. FWP tasked their Conservation Education Division to administer the program.
Who is eligible to receive funding? Any Montana club or organization operating or wishing to build and operate a shooting range. Also any school district or local government wishing to build or improve a shooting range. There are more details about eligibility, discussed later.
How much money is available? That depends on how much money the Legislature decides to appropriate for the program. The least the Legislature has ever appropriated was $60,000 for a two-year "biennium", the most was about $480,000. The amount funded for future funding cycles will depend on the Legislature. You may wish to visit with your legislator or legislative candidates about assertively funding the SRDP.
When is the money available? Grant applications may be submitted to FWP postmarked no earlier than November 1 of any even numbered year, and no later than May 1 of the following odd numbered year. This time window is because the Legislature meets in the first three months of odd numbered years to make new money available. Successful grant applications will be selected by June 1 of odd numbered years. Money for successful grant applications should be available to begin reimbursing grantees for work done by July 1 of odd numbered years.
Are there Montana laws that control how this all works? Yes. The laws relating to the SRDP may be viewed here.
In addition to these laws, have any regulations been adopted to further define the SRDP? Yes. See the regulations here.
I don't know how to write a grant application. Can I get help? These grant applications are not all that difficult, but, yes, you can get help. It's possible that a person familiar with grant writing in your local Office of Community Development or Economic Development Office will be willing and able to help you. There are probably others in your community with grant writing experience. Seek them out. Ask around. Contact information for some freelance grantsmen is available here. People who have written shooting range grant applications for their own ranges and who are willing to coach are here.
Where do I find the application forms and other documents necessary for an application? Those documents are downloadable in the form of an MSWord (.doc) file. Right-click here and select the option "Save link as". This will save the file on your computer. You may then open it with your word-processing software. Or left-click and the word processing software may open the file automatically.
If my club applies for a grant, will we be certain to get money? No. There is limited funding to go around, and the FWP program managers must prioritize among applications according to which among eligible applicants will create the most "bang for the buck" - which will create the most shooting opportunities for the most people, using the money most effectively. However, applicants will be asked to prioritize themselves among various projects within their application. FWP may make grants for some projects within an application and not others. This increases the likelihood that an applicant will get some part of their application funded, even if not all of it.
I don't understand this. How does this work? Suppose your application proposes to resurface the entrance road to your range, put up two new safety berms, and build a firing line cover. Because of limited funds, FWP may only be able to grant funds for building the berms, but not the rest.
Can my club then apply for money to fix the road and build the cover later? Yes. Absolutely. You are encouraged to apply again in a subsequent funding cycle to help satisfy any needs your shooting range has.
If our application is approved, will the grant pay for all costs of our range improvement? No. The grant will only pay up to 50% of costs. Your club must match the grant, which can be done in a number of ways. You can match with your own cash, or donated labor, services or materials. That is, local contributions of one sort or another must carry at least 50% of the cost of your project(s).
So, what sort of donations will work to match grant funds? Any sort of donations that have real contributory value. Maybe you need to rebuild your range road. Suppose one member of your club has a dump truck, and another has a gravel pit. The guy with the dump truck could volunteer a weekend hauling gravel donated by the pit owner, and the grant could pay to hire a grader to come grade the new gravel (if that is no more than 50% of the value of the project). The value of the donated dump truck use and donated gravel would contribute towards your match of requested funds. Suppose you are putting up a new cover over your firing line. One member with a building supply business might donate some materials. Club members might volunteer their labor to construct the cover. The materials and labor, properly valued, can count towards your match of the grant, which might be used to supply the materials needed but not donated.
Don't some people try to game the system, like claiming the dump truck is worth $1,000 per hour? They'd better not, or they'd be in big trouble with their shooting brethren throughout Montana. Also, FWP inspects grant projects after completion to make sure hunting license buyers are getting good value for their investment. The FWP people reviewing the grant applications and inspecting the work have standards they go by for the value of donations, and they'll expect you to keep records and proof of your contributing match. FWP will ask applicants to fill out this form (MSWord file) for equipment use donated. The Montana Department of Labor and Industry has labor rates here ( .pdf file), which FWP uses for SRDP purposes.
Sounds good so far, but there must be some conditions. What's the hook? Well sure. You don't think Montana hunters are just going to give away money via FWP for anyone to throw around, do you? However, the conditions are sensible, we believe. One is that you must give FWP a "future interest" in your range, so that if you and your group quit operating it and it falls into disuse, FWP can come, pick it up, and find a new community group to make the range work for the community. However, as long as the range stays in operation, that won't be an issue for you. Another is that you must have a secure location. That is, you must own your land or have a viable, long-term lease on your range location. Another is that you must allow some form of "public access" (remember those hunting license buyers who pooled their money to make this possible). For range grant purposes, your range can satisfy the public access requirement in one of two ways. Either you can let members of the public use your range according to some schedule for a day use fee, or your membership must be open for anyone eligible to buy a hunting license to become a member of your organization, with full range privileges allowed your members, and for reasonable dues. You must also allow Hunter Education classes of kids to use your range to train young hunters in firearm safety. That's not such a bad deal, is it? There are some other conditions, but none that many other shooting range clubs in Montana haven't been willing to agree with. Look again at the Montana laws that govern the Montana shooting range program.
How will FWP rank applications - what kind of range improvements are most likely to get funded? Safety is always first in the shooting sports. So any applicant projects that address safety issues will get serious attention by FWP application reviewers. Also, FWP will seek to use these sportsmen's' dollars to create the most additional shooting opportunity for the most people, and for the least investment. Suppose your range is the only range that serves a community of 10,000 people. Suppose a subdeveloper has purchased the land to the side of your range, and you currently only have a six-foot safety berm between your shooting bay and where new houses will soon be built. Suppose you apply for $10,000 to build your side berm up to 15 feet, and another $5,000 to beautify your range road by planting flowers. Your berm construction is much more likely to get funded because it is saftey-oriented, and protects and improves shooting opportunities. The flowers may be nice, but they won't do much for shooting opportunities - not that you can't buy and plant flowers with your club's own resources if you want.
How large of a grant can my club get? That depends on how much money the Legislature appropriates for the SRDP, the merit of your proposed project(s), how much you can match, and how many others apply with eligible and meritorious projects. The law requires that FWP may grant no more than 30% of available funds to any one grantee in any funding cycle. So, if the Legislature were to appropriate only $100,000, the most any grantee could receive would be $30,000. If the Legislature appropriates $1,000,000, the most any grantee could receive would be $300,000. Talk to your local legislators and legislative candidates about adequately funding the program. Further, because of the growing interest in the program by many local clubs, clubs which are submitting more and more valid and eligible funding requests, FWP is coming under more pressure to fund the best projects under an applicant's proposal, but not necessarily all projects for which an applicant requests funding in one funding cycle. Also, if you have $100,000 in projects, but can only come up with $30,000 of matching contribution, the most you could get would be a matching $30,000, regardless of how well the SRDP is funded by the Legislature or how good your projects are.
Can my club use existing value in our range to match a grant? No. Grants can only be matched with new investment in your range, cash, labor or materials. For example, if you have an existing trap thrower worth $10,000, that thrower cannot be used as match to get $10,000 for a second trap thrower. However, you could get $5,000 to match another $5,000 your club kicks in to buy that second trap thrower.
OK, so who do we contact to get the ball rolling? You can begin with the information accessible from this page. Look especially at the FWP application file, the MSWord file referenced above under "Where do I find the application forms". If you have questions, the person at FWP who administers the SRDP is Kurt Cunningham. You can phone Kurt at 444-1267, or email him at kcunningham -AT - mt.gov (replace the " -AT- " with "@" - this is done to prevent spambots from harvesting email addresses automatically from Websites). When you review the MSWord application file, you will learn that you need to gather a bunch of information about your project and organization to present as a part of the grant application, including maps, photos, a budget, a resolution passed by your Board of Directors, and more. Remember that the window for application submission opens on November 1 of each even numbered year, and closes on May 1 of the following odd numbered year. If unused money should be available after all eligible applications are approved on June 1 (unlikely but possible with a fulsome legislative appropriation), FWP may accept and fund late applications. Also see the section above, "I don't know how to write a grant application" for help with your application.
What about maps? Grant applications require maps of our range location. Where can we get maps? Good question! One standard way is to go to your local sporting goods store and purchase a United States Geographical Survey (USGS) "Quad" map. You can make a photocopy of the piece of the Quad that includes your range, and mark your range location and boundaries on that copy. If there are no USGS Quads available locally, you can get them in the larger Montana cities at various outlets (Missoula Blueprint; 549-0250). You can also order them direct from the USGS Online. Go to "Featured products." Click on the "Go to Product Line." Select "1:24k topographic Maps". Select "Montana" You will need to know the name of the Quad you want to order. The USGS also publishes a master map of all Montana, with all the Quads marked off, and the name of each Quad printed there. The Montana State Library has images of USGS Quads and other topographic maps available online http://nris.mt.gov/nsdi/drg.html. The 1:24,000 scale map is best for showing detail. With a file decompression program (such as WinZip) and a graphics/imaging program as comes standard with most operating systems, you can print out the area of the quad you're most interested in directly. These downloadable files are about 3MB in size. So, if you don't have a broadband Internet connection, prepare to be patient with the download.
There are other mapping resources available on the Internet. The
state of Montana has a mapping system that shows property boundaries
and property owner information. Here is the Montana
property mapping system. Select "Property map", zoom in to the area
you want by left-clicking on the map. If you opt to include roads
and streams, your property may be easier to find. When you get zoomed
down to your property, click the "I" above the map and then click on the
property you wish to identify. That will pop up a window that tells
you ownership information about the parcel you clicked on. You can
print out the property map, or capture it with the screen-capture on your
computer, usually by using the Alt-PrintScrn keys and then pasting the
captured image into your graphics software (like Paint) to save on your
computer. Google Earth does a wonderful job of providing aerial
photos of any location on Earth. Google has more hi-resolution aerial
photos of some locations than others. In some locales, the resolution
is so good one can see individual cars. In other areas, the resolution
is less, and the pictures more fuzzy. To use Google Earth, you will
need to install the Google Earth software on your computer. Google
Earth is free, You can download Google Earth from
here. You will need either a broadband Internet connection or
plenty of patience to download and use Google Earth, but it's really neat
(clue - it's a great tool for scouting new hunting locations). With
the controls provided, you can either look straight down, or you can tilt
the view to near level to show hills and mountains in 3-D. You might
also try TopoZone, or TerraServer.
If all else fails, your range property must have been surveyed for lease
or sale. You could ask the surveyor who conducted the survey to help
you prepare a map of your range.