It may be hard to believe today, but in the 1930s the sighting of even one whitetail deer was a notable event. Expansion of the U.S. population into game habitat areas and unregulated hunting led many populations of game species to plummet. Today, however, the nationwide deer population is nearly 32 million strong. Similar increases have taken place among many species, including ducks, wild turkeys, and other game birds and furbearers. These wildlife successes, enjoyed by all Americans, are the direct result of decades of hard work and funding provided by the nation’s hunters and shooters.
The multitude of conservation programs that helped restore game populations are largely funded by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937,commonly known as the Pittman-Robertson Act, which derives its revenues from sportsmen through excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, and hunting equipment. In 1950, following the amazing successes of Pittman-Robertson,Congress passed the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act, commonly known as Dingell-Johnson or Wallop-Breaux. Under this program, revenue generated from excise taxes on fishing equipment goes toward restoring and improving America’s fishery resources. Since its establishment, Pittman-Robertson has collected nearly $7.2 billion to fund conservation efforts across the country.1
Pittman-Robertson imposes an 11% excise tax on long guns, ammunition and archery equipment, and a 10% excise tax 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. 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. Since its establishment, Pittman-Robertson has collected nearly $7.2 billion to fund conservation efforts across the country.1
Sportsmen are the primary supporters of efforts to protect game species. Conservation efforts, fueled by Pittman-Robertson funds, such as the acquisition and improvement of wildlife habitat, research, public access facilities, and hunter education programs, along with state wildlife agencies that carefully regulate hunting, have helped restore and now conserve America’s abundant wildlife populations.
1 See the FY2016 fund apportionment at http://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/Subpages/GrantPrograms/WR/WRFinalApportionment2016.pdf