WILDLIFE RESTORATION (PITTMAN-ROBERTSON ACT)
What is the Pittman-Robertson Act?
In the early 1900s, when many wildlife species were disappearing or declining, the firearms and ammunition industry asked Congress to impose an excise tax on the sale of firearms and ammunition to help fund wildlife conservation in the United States. The resulting Pittman-Robertson (P-R) Act, passed in 1937, is now known as Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration. Revenues generated from these excise taxes are apportioned to state wildlife agencies for their conservation efforts, hunter education programs, and operation of archery and shooting ranges. In the 76 years since its inception, over $7 billion have been collected from manufacturers and has been made available to states, including over $116 million to Mississippi. This partnership of hunters and sport shooters with the firearms and ammunition industry is by far America's largest contributor to wildlife conservation and public access to our natural resources.
How does the Pittman-Robertson Act work?
The excise tax is set by law at 11% of the wholesale price for long guns and ammunition and 10% for handguns. It is paid by manufacturers, producers, and importers and applies to all commercial sales and imports, whether their purpose is hunting, sport shooting, or personal defense. This tax is handled by the Department of the Treasury, which turns the funds over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for apportionments to states.
How are Pittman-Robertson Funds distributed to states?
USFWS deposits P-R revenue into a special account called the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund. These funds are made available to states the year following their collection. Funds are then distributed through the following process:
1) $8 million is dedicated to Enhanced Hunter Education programs, including the construction or maintenance of public target ranges.
2) $3 million is set aside for projects that require cooperation among the states.
3) One-half of the excise tax collected on handguns is set aside for Basic Hunter Education programs.
The remainder of the trust fund is then divided in half with 50 percent apportioned to states based on the land area of the state in proportion to the total land area of the country. The remaining 50 percent is apportioned based on the number of individual paid hunting license holders in the state in proportion to the national total.
How important is it to be a Mississippi hunting license holder?
Hunters have always been the primary supporters of wildlife conservation in Mississippi, but someone who purchases a license to hunt in Mississippi is valuable as a financial supporter of wildlife conservation for two additional reasons. First, the revenue from license sales goes exclusively to administering MDWFP's wildlife and fisheries programs. Second, the number of individual hunting license holders increases our state's share of the total P-R apportionment. Mississippi's apportionment is directly related to the number of hunters we have. Thus, if the number of license holders in Mississippi declines, other states may receive our share of funding.
What types of projects are funded by Pittman-Robertson?
States use their P-R funds to restore, manage, and enhance wild birds and mammals and their habitat. P-R projects also include providing public access to wildlife resources, Hunter Education, and development and management of shooting ranges. The restoration of white-tailed deer, wild turkey, and wood ducks are among the many success stories of P-R funded projects in Mississippi. Now that restoration is complete for most species, our emphasis has shifted to active management, applied wildlife research, and ensuring of public access. Current P-R funding priorities for MDWFP include acquiring land for public use, operating and managing Wildlife Management Areas, conducting research projects that address specific needs, and providing technical guidance to landowners to meet their wildlife management objectives. Additionally, funds contribute to Hunter Education programs and support construction and operation of shooting ranges.
Why is Pittman-Robertson so effective?
A key reason for the success of P-R was the inclusion of wording in the original 1937 law that prohibits the diversion of license fees paid by hunters for any other purpose than the administration of the state game and fish department. States have to agree to this provision to receive P-R funds. Mississippi made its initial commitment to the P-R Act in 1939, and Governor Phil Bryant reaffirmed this commitment in 2012 when he signed HB 848 into law. Over the years, these words have protected license dollars from being used by state governments for other purposes, thus insuring a steady, reliable funding base for conservation that is made even stronger by the associated P-R funds generated through these hunting license holders.
This direct link, between those who hunt and shoot and the resources needed to expand and enhance opportunities to hunt and shoot, is a key component of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. This user pay/public benefit model is extremely successful because our sportsmen and women and the industries that serve them have always been willing to commit the resources necessary to protect, enhance, and expand Mississippi's conservation, hunting, and shooting heritage.