Wildlife Management Legislation

Posted on October 5, 2001

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President Theodore Roosevelt, arguably America`s first prominent conservationist, knew first hand of the advantages regulated hunting and conservation bring to wildlife. During the late 1800s, Roosevelt saw animal numbers deteriorate because of human encroachment and over-hunting driven by unregulated meat and fur markets. As President, Roosevelt, an NRA life member, began creating government programs aimed at restoring game populations to healthy levels.

Most lawmakers understand the undisputable benefits that conservation and regulated hunting bring to wildlife, and many pieces of legislation have come about over the years to keep pace with the changing times and habitat conditions.

  • 1846 Rhode Island passed the first seasonal hunting regulation protecting waterfowl.
  • 1878 Iowa becomes the first state to initiate bag limits.
  • 1895 Michigan and North Dakota issue the first revenue generating hunting licenses.
  • 1900 Congress passed the Lacey Act which became the first federal law protecting game. It prohibited the interstate shipment of illegally taken wildlife and importation of species.
  • 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt established the first Federal Bird Reservation on Pelican Island, Florida. Early wildlife reservations would be re-designated as "national wildlife refuges" in 1942.
  • 1918 The Migratory Bird Treaty Act provided regulation of migratory bird hunting.
  • 1930 The American Game Policy was introduced by Aldo Leopold. The policy called for trained professionals to study and administer conservation efforts.
  • 1934 Congress passed the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act, or the "Duck Stamp Act," requiring hunters of migratory birds to buy a federal duck stamp with the generated revenue going to wetlands conservation projects.
  • 1937 The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, also known as the Pittman-Robertson Act, created a 10% excise tax on sporting arms and ammunition. A few years later the tax became 11% on long arms, ammunition, and bow hunting equipment and 10% on handguns. Revenue is deposited in a special trust fund under the management of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be used for state wildlife restoration projects. To date, over $3 billion in federal excise taxes have been generated.
  • 1950 Following the model set by Pittman-Robertson, the Dingell-Johnson Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act passed. Revenue generated from fishing equipment sales was directed towards restoring and improving America`s fishery resources.
  • 1964 The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act was passed. It provided comprehensive guidance for administering the vast system of refuges in America, all of which provide wildlife with crucial habitat for survival.
  • 1970 With the passage of the Dingell-Hart Act, revenue from an existing 10% excise tax on handguns was transferred to the Pittman-Robertson trust fund.
  • 1972 An 11% Pittman-Robertson excise tax was extended to archery equipment with the passage of the Goodling-Moss Act. One-half of the tax revenue collected on handguns and archery equipment may be used by state fish and wildlife agencies for hunter safety training and range development.
  • 1976 The Federal Land Policy and Management Act provided for "multiple use" including hunting, fishing and wildlife management of the 270 million acres of public land.
  • 1980 With the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, the National Wildlife Refuge System was expanded, adding nine new refuges totaling more than 76.4 million acres.
  • 1984 The Dingell-Johnson Act was supplemented by the Wallop-Breaux Amendment. It extended the excise tax to all previously untaxed fishing gear and added a 3% tax to electric trolling motors and sonar fish finders. In addition, a portion of existing tax on boat fuel was devoted to this program.
  • 1985 The Food Security Act created the Conservation Reserve Program to assist farmers in converting highly erodible land from crop production to ground cover in order to improve soil, water and wildlife resources. Total acreage enrolled exceeds 30 million acres.
  • 1989 The North American Wetlands Preservation Act encourages partnerships to protect, enhance and restore wetlands and other habitats for migratory birds.
  • 1997 Passage of the Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act set out a mission statement and purposes to guide management of the 92 million-acre system. The Act established hunting and fishing as priority public uses of refuges.
  • 1998 The Migratory Bird Treaty Reform Act reduced the standard for being cited for a baiting violation, but increased the penalties if convicted of such a violation.
  • 2000 The Fish and Wildlife Programs Improvement Act amended the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts to make needed reforms. It also earmarked over $7 million annually for the states to use in enhancing hunter education and range development.
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