Yes, you read that headline right. It’s billion. With a “B.”
The firearms and ammunition industry is actually one of the largest private sources of funding for wildlife conservation in the world. That’s not something a lot of people know about, but it’s one of the best stories in the history of America.
Considering that Joe Bartozzi, the President and CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation recently announced that guns and ammo manufactures recently surpassed $14 billion in total contributions to the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund, it seems like a good time to tell that story.
“This is truly a remarkable win for wildlife conservation.
This fund has been responsible for the restoration and recovery of America’s iconic game species, including the Rocky Mountain elk, whitetail deer, pronghorn antelope, wild turkeys and a variety of waterfowl.
It is also responsible for funding the recovery and conservation of nongame species, including the American bald eagle, reptiles, fauna and conservation lands that allow them to thrive.
The firearm industry is proud to perform such an important and vital function to ensure America’s wildlife remains abundant for future generations.”
The Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund was established by Congress in 1937. It is also commonly referred to as the Pittman-Robertson fund, named after the two members of Congress who sponsored the legislation that created it.
That legislation created an excise tax that is paid by firearms and ammunition manufacturers on the products they produce. The tax is set at 11% on the wholesale price for shotguns, rifles, and associated ammunition and 10% on on handguns. The tax is not paid directly by consumers, but by the gun and ammo makers themselves and it is applied to essentially every firearm commercially sold in the U.S., even if the gun is being purchased for recreational shooting or self-defense instead of hunting.
The funds collected through those taxes are eventually turned over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who distributes those funds to all 50 state fish and wildlife agencies throughout the country. The funds are specifically dedicated to support conservation efforts and cannot be diverted to other causes. That means that collectively, the people that purchase and manufacture guns and ammunition are the single greatest source of wildlife conservation funding in America.
Those excise taxes combined with similar excises taxes on fishing gear and motorboat fuel combined with revenue generated from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses comprise what is known as the American System of Conservation Funding.
Since 1939, that system as a whole has generated over $60 billion in financial support for America’s wild places and wild things, which makes the full scope of the financial support that the hunting and fishing communities in this country provide for fish and wildlife conservation truly staggering.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service disbursed more than $1 billion through the Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Program thanks to the American System of Conservation Funding. It was the first time in history that the program had generated more than $1 billion in a single year.
The hunting, fishing, and firearms industries all played a critical role in bringing some of North America’s most cherished species back from the brink of extinction, and they still play a critical role in ensuring the sustainable conservation of those species well into the future.
For more information on just how unique and special the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and the full power of the dedicated funding sources our nation has in place for conservation efforts, check out this great video from Steven Rinella from MeatEater.