Over $1 billion collected from the long-standing excise tax on the sale of firearms and ammunition will be available for wildlife conservation, public shooting ranges, and hunters’ education. 

The funds, collected since 1937 through the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration program, are mandated taxes set at 11 percent of the wholesale price of long guns and ammunition, and 10 percent of each handgun. This revenue stream, controlled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, can only be used for the benefit of public recreation and conservation. These funds are apportioned to state wildlife agencies, which must apply for them and supply matching local dollars. The typical grant is 75 percent funded by the allocation, met by 25 percent from state conservation agencies, with the latter usually drawn from hunting and fishing license revenues.

The stacks of cash available under Pittman-Robertson have grown in recent years because of a long-running spike in gun and ammunition sales. For example, in 2012, just $371 million was apportioned by the USFWS from collected taxes. By 2014, this doubled to $760 million. 

"This partnership is vital to wildlife and habitat conservation and outdoor pursuits throughout the country because it helps our state partners create opportunities for recreational access and monitor and manage wildlife and wild places," said USFWS Director Martha Williams.

In all, over $15 billion has been made available to states since Pittman-Robertson was adopted – a figure that translates to over $25 billion when adjusted for inflation. Officials state the program has helped over 500 species of mammals and birds, provided hunter education to more than 1 million students, and constructed or renovated over 850 public shooting ranges.

This year's allocation to the states amounts to $1.198 billion after the USFWS retained some $12.7 million for administrative costs. The funds are apportioned via a formula based largely on the number of hunting licenses sold in the state or territory. The largest recipient of the 2023 allocation was sportsman-rich Texas, with the Lone Star state allocated $55.1 million. By comparison, California, which has one-third greater population than Texas but has consistently whittled down the number of active hunters in the state via increasing regulation and persecution of youth shooting sports, was only apportioned $38.8 million. 

It can be argued that purchasers of firearms and ammunition are the greatest source of wildlife conservation funding.

"The firearm industry is tremendously proud of the contributions we make to conserving our wildlife and the habitats wildlife need to thrive for generations to come,” said National Shooting Sports Foundation President and CEO Joe Bartozzi. "Our industry is at the forefront of wildlife conservation. Each time a recreational shooter or hunter purchases firearms and ammunition, they are supporting the manufacturers that pay these taxes to ensure America remains the gold standard for sustainable conservation and wildlife management."

Banner image: Mossberg 940 PRO Shotguns. (Photo: Chris Eger/Guns.com)

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