New York wildlife management
Sonny Knowlton, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation wildlife technician, replaces mallard duck nests in preparation for the spring mating season during the chilly winter weather on the Tonawanda Wildlife Management Area in Tonawanda, N.Y., (AP Photo/David Duprey)

By Larry Keane

State wildlife agencies are facing something many haven’t seen for years, even decades. Their seeing flush budgets. Excise taxes paid by firearm and ammunition makers to the Wildlife Restoration Fund, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USFWS), is nearly a half-billion dollars at just halfway through the fiscal year.

That’s a 64 percent increase over the same time last year, all due to more guns and ammunition being manufactured and the law-abiding citizens who purchase them. Last year, manufacturers paid in nearly $300 million in Pittman-Robertson excise taxes. That figure this year towers at $493 million.

That’s going to be a big increase to wildlife and habitat conservation, increased hunter access and construction on new public gun ranges and improvements to existing ones. These figures are giving state wildlife agencies something different than what they’ve been fighting in years past. Budgets are healthier than they’ve been in years.

So far, firearm and ammunition manufacturers contributed over $13.8 billion to the Wildlife & Sport Fish Restoration Fund, also known as the Pittman-Robertson excise tax.

Outdoor Life’s Alex Robinson did the math earlier this year and found an astonishing figure. Most of that money has been paid into the trust fund in just the last decade.

“American shooters and hunters have generated as many P-R dollars in the last 10 years of gun and ammo buying as they have in the previous 72 years (when not adjusting for inflation),” Robinson reported.

Boosting Budgets

USFWS announced in February that $1 billion in wildlife conservation funds was being distributed to state wildlife agencies, an increase of $121 million than was distributed in 2020. Those disbursements are the funds collected through the Pittman-Robertson excise taxes on firearms and ammunition, along with similar taxes on archery equipment as well as taxes on angling equipment that benefits the Sport Fish Restoration Fund.

States are already putting that use. Washington state’s legislature passed their budget that includes $2.7 million coming in from Pittman-Robertson excise taxes, paid by gun and ammunition makers. That’s going to assist in tackling priority issues like Chronic Wasting Disease. The state is planning on spending almost a half million dollars for surveillance and monitoring of the disease in wild and captive cervid populations.

Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources received $32.4 million in Wildlife & Sport Fish Restoration (WSFR) funds, including $19.6 million from Pittman-Robertson excise taxes.

Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources spokesperson told media earlier this year that the increase of Pittman-Robertson funding that’s sourced to increased gun purchases and the manufacturers supporting those purchases will have ripple effects for the coming years.

“We will certainly benefit, virtually the entire nation experienced a lift in 2020,” DNR spokesperson Dustin Isenhoff said.

The forecast is looking good. With a 64 percent increase in Pittman-Robertson excise taxes over the same period last year, and no immediate slowdown in firearm or ammunition purchases on the horizon, it means state wildlife agencies could be in for healthy budgets to help with healthy wildlife.

 

Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

 

 

13 COMMENTS

  1. Hopefully the funds will be used as intended and not wasted on admin or other cost.
    It would be nice to see maybe some outdoor shooting areas created on BLM or national lands for those who cannot afford the high cost of some of the membership ranges.

    Since it was paid for by the gun owners we should get something out of it.

    • Unfortunately, the trend in many areas of this nation appears to be using those funds to further restrict access to shooting areas.

      We *should* get something out of it but, I fear that we won’t.

    • What we really ought to be lobbying for is funding for public ranges in and near urban areas.

      Most of these taxes generated by guns and ammo are NOT from purchases by hunters. Hunters don’t buy lots of guns, just a few. They acquire them gradually over a lifetime. Hunters don’t shoot a lot to hunt. They may practice marksmanship; partly for hunting and partly as a sport or hobby.

      Some comes from practitioners of the marksmanship sports. Not associated with either hunting or self-defense.

      Most of the tax-generating sales are by people who acquire guns and ammo primarily for self-defense. For those living in or near rural areas, they don’t need much support for public ranges.

      But those living in urban areas are either transportationally or economically locked-out of places to develop and maintain marksmanship skills. If we are ever to gain ground in the Blue states and major metro areas in Purple and even Red states, we need to cultivate the self-defense users of the right to arms.

      How can we possibly do this when this market for guns must travel great distances to reach a range; or, must pay high range fees to private ranges accessible to them? There are no public ranges in Chicago; so, if you don’t have a car you can’t go to a range. In NYC there are several private ranges but you must pay a membership or guest fee beyond the reach of the lower-income self-defender.

      Naturally, the Democrats will resist developing public ranges accessible to their inner-city constituents. Likewise, our hunter friends and the public servants responsible for conservation will covet these tax payments for wildlife. Nevertheless, a significant share of these funds are rightfully to be spent on public ranges and in areas where public ranges are most (NOT LEAST) needed. We should OPPOSE projects to create public ranges in, e.g., Wyoming.

      • I guess I am one of the luckier ones when it comes to ranges. I live outside of Portland and where I am there is a public inside range within 5 minutes of me that you can just walk in. Really nice range and cost $25 and a $10 ammo inspection as they have none to sell. Another 5 minutes from me I have been on a waiting list for the last 18 months for this gun club that has several outdoor ranges. One goes to 600 yards. I’ll be lucky if I can get in this October, otherwise another year wait. But it is over 500 a year membership for the 1st year, 280 after that.

        So I go for an hour and a half drive up into the BLM lands in the cascade range. There are some great places to go shoot and they are not crowded. The best part it is allowed. You might see a forest service ranger and he just wants to make sure you have water and a shovel for a fire if you start one and no alcohol. That never mixes with shooting anyways. But that is a long days trip and I am lucky to find the time to do it 3-4 times a year.

        You are right, more ranges need to be available to the public closer to the suburban/urban areas. That is one of the things the NRA should be lobbying for instead of the mass mailings for money and Wayne’s suits and boats.

    • Frankly, Pittman-Robertson should be repealed as an infringement, barring that, the money should be devoted to building ranges and opportunities to train. Perhaps some money should be spent on teaching school age citizens to shoot safely and accurately. Gun culture 2.0 does not buy 10 to 12 billion rounds each year to hunt ducks.

  2. That’s some good news for a change.
    I’ve never minded the taxes for the Robert Pittman act. It’s a little give back for all the pleasures the critters and outdoors have given to me.
    I saw a Raincrow fly in a pecan tree this morning.
    With all the turmoil it’s nice to take a break from civilization. Just listening to the trees sing is relaxing.

  3. “That’s going to be a big increase to wildlife and habitat conservation, increased hunter access and construction on new public gun ranges and improvements to existing ones.”

    Yeah, right. I gotta call total BS on this naive assessment. What it’s going to mean is more bureaucrats with outdoorsy uniforms and not a dime spent on anything important, like access. Because the G is all about promoting the G, and nothing else. Ever.

  4. “State wildlife agencies are facing something many haven’t seen for years, even decades. Their seeing flush budgets.”
    “Their” should be “They’re”.
    I know, I know, I am being a grammar Nazi, mea culpa.
    I just know that I would appreciate the opportunity to correct something like that, so I extend the courtesy of correction to the author.

    • There their they’re now dont get all grammerly.
      I’m still trying to figure out why new is spelled with a G.

  5. The Pittman-Robertson excise tax needs to be repealed and gun/ammo buyers should receive refund checks from the govt for those taxes. A minority of shooters are hunters and it’s decreasing while the number of gun owners increases. Yet every gun and ammo buyer is price gouged to force them to support the hunter’s hobby. No other hobby/sport gets to force others to subsidize their hobby. The Pittman-Robertson Fudd excise tax is B.S. and needs to end ASAP. The only reason it continues is because so few people are aware of it and how it raises the prices of all their gun and ammo purchases. Let fudds pay for their own hunting and fishing hobby.

  6. Think of the tax as a donation to save the whales kinda thing.
    Pave Paridise, who cares, the gun range is open.

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