How Gun and Ammunition Sales Affect State Game and Fish Agencies

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licenseMONTGOMERY-Throughout the United States, most state game and fish agencies, including the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF), receive no moneys from their state’s general fund budget. Funding for these agencies is based on a “user pay” concept, with the majority of funds used to support and enhance state conservation and education efforts coming from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses.

States also receive a significant amount of annual funding through an excise tax placed onbow hunting certain merchandise used in hunting and fishing. Guns, ammunition, bows and arrows are items on which the excise tax is collected. In recent years, gun and ammunition sales have dramatically increased, as more Americans are purchasing firearms and ammunition. Gun and ammunition manufacturers throughout the country have hired additional personnel, added additional manufacturing shifts, and are building additional facilities, but still can’t keep up with the demand for some firearms and ammunition. This dramatic increase in demand and sales has led to an increase in annual funding allocated to state game and fish agencies.

ammoThe Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, usually called the Pittman-Robertson Act after its sponsors, Senator Key Pittman of Nevada and Representative Absalom Willis Robertson of Virginia, creates an 11 percent excise tax placed on firearms, ammunition, and bows and arrows. The tax already existed in 1937, but conservationists from all over the U.S., faced with dwindling wildlife and fisheries populations, pressured Congress to earmark that money for state game and fish agencies. Those funds opened the door for the modern era of wildlife conservation.

Each year millions of dollars are dedicated to wildlife and fish restoration state licenseand enhancement projects across the country. Since the implementation of the act, more than $13 billion have been collected, distributed, and matched with funds from state agencies. Projects focus on wildlife and fish management, species and habitat restoration, land acquisition, habitat protection, scientific research, wildlife population monitoring, hunter and aquatic education, public shooting ranges, and access for hunting, fishing and boating.

The moneys collected from the excise taxes go to the U.S. Department of the Interior and are distributed to states based on a formula that takes into account the number of hunting license sold in the state and the size of the state. State wildlife agencies must apply for the money and provide 25 percent of their own matching funds. The majority of these matching funds come from hunting and fishing license sales.

graph  huntingA 2011 national survey of Hunting Fishing and Wildlife Associated Recreation conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service documented a significant resurgence in the number of people embracing America’s great outdoors. Hunting participation has increased by 9 percent, while fishing participation has increased by 11 percent. Nearly 38 percent of Americans participated in wildlife related recreation, an increase of 2.6 million participants from the 2006 Survey.

Because of the Pittman-Robertson Act visionaries, the booming economy in firearm and ammunition sales, and the increase in participants, states currently have a temporary increase in funding available to support wildlife and fisheries conservation efforts. As the belt tightens on state general fund budgets, it is nice to be able to celebrate the wisdom of those who recognized our responsibility to conserve and restore our greatest natural resources and devised a way to pay for it for future generations to enjoy. For more information, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website ( or the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ site (

MEDIA RELEASE/Jeff L. Makemson, Certified Wildlife Biologist, Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries

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