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A milestone in conservation history occurred in 1937 with the passage of the Pittman-Robertson Act, also known as the Wildlife Restoration Act. Strongly supported by hunters, this legislation transferred receipts from a 10 percent excise tax on sporting arms and ammunition from the general treasury to state wildlife conservation programs.

This tax was raised to 11 percent during World War II and now yields $163 million per year for wildlife conservation programs.

Modeled after the Wildlife Restoration Act, the Sport Fish Restoration Act, was passed in 1950. 

The Sport Fish Restoration legislation was sponsored by Senator Edwin Johnson of Colorado and Representative John Dingell, Sr. of Michigan and is commonly known as the Dingell-Johnson Act.

In 1970, again with hunter support, the Dingell-Hart Bill was enacted, making a 20 percent excise tax on handguns available for wildlife restoration and hunter safety training. Proceeds from this tax provide some $41 million per year.

The archery community entered the picture in 1972 with the passage of the Dingell-Gooding bill, specifying an 11 percent excise tax on archery equipment.

In 1984, the Sport Fish Restoration Act was amended. The "Wallop-Breaux" amendment included additional fishing equipment in the calculation, an import duty on recreational boats, and a portion of marine fuel tax revenue. This amendment included funding for aquatic education programs as an eligible activity. Proceeds from this tax provide some $100 million a year.

All proceeds from these excise taxes are divided among the 50 state wildlife agencies. Each state's share is based on its land area and number of licensed hunters and anglers. Funds cover about 75 percent of the bill for approved wildlife and fish restoration projects and total some $560 million per year.

The combination of these taxes has formed one of the best programs ever devised for the benefit of wildlife, game and non-game species alike, and has enabled the states to greatly expand their conservation activities.

More than half of the revenue generated by the P-R Act is used to buy, develop, maintain, and operate wildlife management areas. These activities include planting feed and cover, restocking game, constructing marshes and ponds for waterfowl, and providing watering places for wildlife in arid areas.

Another major use of these funds is research, which contributes to sound wildlife management and effective control of wildlife diseases.

It is important to realize that land acquisition from taxes on sporting arms and ammunition provides the non-hunting public, as well as the hunter, with state-owned recreation grounds.

How does the model work? 

Manufacturers of hunting and shooting arms and ammunition, archery equipment, and fishing equipment pay an excise tax on the equipment they produce. These funds, combined with a tax on motorboat fuels, are collected by the federal government and distributed to each state's fish and wildlife agency. State fish and wildlife agencies then combine these funds with revenue from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses to conserve, manage, and enhance fish and wildlife and their habitats and to create fish and wildlife recreational and educational opportunities.

Text courtesy of the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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