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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.