Issue of the Week: Pittman-Robertson Act


States such as Michigan, Alaska and Texas have received millions of dollars for habitat restoration and wildlife conservation efforts. The source of this funding stems from a piece of legislation that, thanks to today’s sportsmen and women, is experiencing a major boost. Sadly, many are unaware of this law that generates billions for wildlife conservation, including the very sportsmen and women who actively contribute to its causes.

In 1937, the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, better-known as the Pittman-Robertson Act after its sponsors Senator Key Pittman and Representative A. Willis Robertson, was signed into law. The act extended the life of an existing 10 percent tax (now 11 percent) on ammunition and firearms, and distributed that revenue to the states for wildlife restoration.

The tax applies to all commercial sales and imports of merchandise pertaining to shooting sports. The money generated is then allocated to the Department of the Interior, which in turn funds 75 percent of state approved projects. US Fish and Wildlife Service lists approved projects as “acquisition and improvement of wildlife habitat, introduction of wildlife into suitable habitat, research into wildlife problems, surveys and inventories of wildlife problems, hunter education programs,” and any other approved designated use.



Recent gun control regulations have created a surge in ammunition sales. Combine these sales with an increase in shooting sports participation and you have a substantial influx of conservation dollars. According to a 2013 National Shooting Sports Foundation report, “Since the program’s inception, over $8 billion has been collected from manufacturers and awarded to states through Pittman-Robertson making the firearms and ammunition industry America’s largest contributor to conservation and access.” Recently, the Department of the Interior announced that $1.1 billion of excise tax revenue paid by sportsmen and women would go toward funding state conservation and recreation projects this year.

However, the benefit of these efforts is not solely enjoyed by sportsmen and women. Non-hunters reap the benefit of Pitman-Robertson funding in multiple ways. Many state owned lands are purchased with Pittman-Robertson funds for acquisition of suitable wildlife habitat. Roughly 70 percent of people use the land purchased under the Pittman-Roberson Act for non-hunting purposes such as hiking, bird watching or picnicking. Thank you notes to hunting organizations are encouraged.

“People who enjoy hunting, fishing, boating and recreational shooting provide a strong foundation for conservation funding in this country,” Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Sally Jewell said. “The taxes they pay on equipment and boating fuel support critical fish and wildlife management and conservation efforts, create access for recreational boating, and underpin education programs that help get kids outdoors.”

Many challenge the fact that hunters are major contributors to conservation efforts, but the reality of the situation is apparent through the implementation of the Pittman-Robertson Act. Sportsmen and women greatly respect wildlife and will continue to support its sustainability though programs and projects their spending makes possible. Legislation such as the Pittman-Robertson Act is incredibly beneficial and SCI Foundation hopes to educate its readers as the successes arise.

For more information and to view a breakdown of funding by state click here

Twice a week, SCI Foundation informs readers about conservation initiatives happening worldwide and updates them on SCI Foundation’s news, projects and events. Tuesdays are dedicated to an Issue of the Week and Thursday’s Weekly Updates will provide an inside look into research and our other science-based conservation efforts. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more SCI Foundation news.

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