This year is the 75th anniversary of the Pittman-Robertson Act, hunters, shooters, and sportsman all play a vital role in funding wildlife management and conservation through the funds provided by this act. Nevada Senator Key Pittman and Virginia Congressman Absalom Willis Robertson sponsored the legislation. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed it into law on Sept. 2, 1937.
Contrary to the belief of “animal rights” extremist groups, hunters and sportsmen have been and continue to be the primary players in the effort to protect the game which they hunt. Conservation tactics including carefully regulated hunting, habitat acquisition and species transplants contribute to maintain populations at healthy levels.
The Pittman-Robertson Act took over a pre-existing 11% excise tax on firearms and ammunition. Under the old law the moneys had gone to the general fund, under the P-R Act the money is kept separate and is given to the Secretary of the Interior to distribute to the States. Funds are distributed to each state based on a formula that takes into account both the area of the state and its number of licensed hunters.
States must fulfill requirements to use the money apportioned to them. All money from their hunting license sales must be used only by State’s fish and game departments, no diversion of funds is allowed. Plans for what to do with the money must be submitted to and approved by the Secretary of the Interior. Once a plan has been approved, the state pays the full cost and is reimbursed up to 75% of the cost through P-R funds. The 25% that the State must bear generally comes from its hunting license sales. If, for whatever reason, any of the federal money does not get spent, after two years that money is then reallocated to the Migratory Bird Conservation Act.
During the 1970s, amendments to the act created a 10% tax on handguns and their ammunition and accessories as well as an 11% tax on archery equipment. It was mandated that half of the money from each of those taxes be used to educate and train hunters through the creation and maintenance of hunter safety classes as well as public shooting ranges.
“Hunting is conservation! There is no greater proof of that than hunters who successfully lobbied government so many years ago to tax themselves—all for the benefit of wildlife,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “That continuing and ever-increasing funding remains the lion’s share for today’s conservation efforts, too.”
It was at the request of the hunting community that the P-R Act came into being. The Act raises more than $280 million a year for wildlife conservation, and raised more than $2 billion since its inception. Revenue from state licenses and fees adds up to about $275 million a year, which goes exclusively to state fish and game departments for conservation purposes. President Ronald Reagan stated it best at the Pittman-Robertson 50th Anniversary when he said: “Those who pay the freight are those who purchase firearms, ammunition, and, in recent years, archery equipment.”
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