U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke on Tuesday announced over $1.1 billion in funding collected from the long-standing excise tax on the sale of guns, ammo, archery and fishing equipment.
The funds were collected through the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration and Dingell-Johnson Sports Fish Restoration programs, which have mandated taxes levied against manufacturers of hunting and fishing equipment since 1937 and 1950, respectively. Zinke said the program makes America’s sportsmen among the country’s “best conservationists” as they contribute billions for the benefit of public recreation, education, and conservation through their everyday purchases.
“Every time a firearm, fishing pole, hook, bullet, motor boat or boat fuel is sold, part of that cost goes to fund conservation,” said Zinke. “The best way to increase funding for conservation and sportsmen access is to increase the number of hunters and anglers in our woods and waters.”
Enacted during the Great Depression, Pittman-Robertson is credited with largely saving the sport of hunting in the country and bringing numerous species back from the brink of extinction. This is due in no small part to the more than $9 billion funneled from the firearms and ammunition industry, through the federal government, and into the various state conservation agencies. In all, some $20 billion has been made available to state conservation efforts since the program’s establishment. States have chipped in another $6.7 billion in matching funds over the years, largely drawn from hunting and fishing license sales.
This, in effect, makes every person that buys guns or ammunition a conservationist and the “user-pay” scheme in place for decades is returned to sportsmen through preserving habitat, funding hunters education and safety programs, and establishing public shooting ranges. Further, while hikers and birdwatchers enjoy public land access, they largely do so as a benefit of skyrocketing gun and ammo sales. For instance, Vermont conservation officials noted that “wildlife viewing provides no significant revenue stream to the department that would allow for the management of the resources viewed.”
This means that, as gun sales rise, so does the amount of funds available to states through Pittman-Robertson. In 2008, taxes generated during George W. Bush’s administration provided over $700 million for allocation. This jumped above the $1 billion mark for the past five years running.
The latest allocations range from a low of $1.1 million to Washington D.C. to just over $54 million for Texas.