This year marks the 75th anniversary of the passage of the landmark Pittman-Robertson (also known as Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration) Act, which directs excise taxes collected on the sale of firearms and ammunition to be used exclusively by state wildlife agencies for improving wildlife populations, hunter education and public access to the outdoors. The benefits of this program to state agencies, sportsmen, sporting goods retailers and manufacturers and anyone who enjoys and appreciates wildlife and the outdoors have been abundant since its creation.
Taking a look at the state of wildlife and hunting opportunities when Pittman-Robertson was passed compared to now can be startling. In 1937, 11 states had no open seasons for deer and three others only had local seasons. Missouri’s deer season was only three days long, while Colorado only had a seven-day elk season. Grouse season in Wisconsin was completely closed, South Dakota only had local pheasant seasons and no states had dedicated archery or muzzleloader seasons.
Today, virtually every state boasts lengthy deer seasons including special archery and muzzleloader seasons that can extend a deer hunter’s time outdoors. Missouri boasts more than 123 days of hunting for deer each year, elk hunters can now potentially hunt more than 120 days in Colorado, Wisconsin enjoys a 136-day grouse season and South Dakota is recognized as the pheasant hunting capital of the world with abundant opportunity and an 86-day statewide season. Even considering recent declines in the total number of hunters, there is still more than twice the number of hunters in 2010 than there were in 1937.
“Wildlife was in danger of disappearing in many areas and hunting opportunities were not nearly as abundant as they are today despite the modern perception among many non-hunters that those were the good old days,” says Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates, a leading researcher of fish and wildlife economics and statistics.
Southwick Associates teamed up with Andrew Loftus Consulting on behalf of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies to develop the report, “Financial Returns to Industry from the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program.” The report details many of the benefits to various stakeholder groups since the inception of the program prevented excise taxes on firearms and ammunition from being diverted to the general treasury. It also protected the funds raised through license fees paid by hunters from being diverted for any other purpose than the administration of state wildlife agencies.
The benefits of the program extend far beyond providing much-needed funding for state wildlife agencies to carry out programs that restore and maintain healthier wildlife populations and habitats and provide greater hunting opportunities. It also helps the bottom lines of the manufacturers and retailers who build and sell the products on which the excise taxes are placed.
“Since 1937, the Wildlife Restoration Act has provided nearly $7 billion to state fish and wildlife agencies to support wildlife and habitat conservation, hunter access, hunter safety education and shooting range development,” says Ron Regan, Executive Director of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “Ultimately, it’s a cycle of success where Wildlife Restoration-funded conservation creates better hunting opportunities, which leads to more hunters, which translates into more consumers for hunting, archery and shooting sports manufacturers and retail outlets.”
Hunting license sales and collected excise taxes annually result in approximately $1.27 billion to fund state wildlife agencies. When adjusted for 2009 dollars, consumer retail purchases of tax-related hunting and shooting equipment ranged between a low of $2.8 billion in 1970 to $5.2 billion in 1996.
To review complete details of the report, visit http://www.southwickassociates.com.