Following the Great Depression of 1929, America sought a remedy for not only economic devastation, but also the severe blow to our corporate dispiritedness. The United States was reeling in all quarters and, in a desperate move to cast off the much-maligned Hoover, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected in 1932 in a 472-59 electoral vote landslide.
FDR, the Democrats’ Democrat, pledged to renew the socialism of Woodrow Wilson, and toward that goal advanced the “New Deal,” a “series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms and regulations.” The series of government programs began in 1933 and continued through 1938 and included the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Civil Works Administration (CWA), the Farm Security Administration (FSA), the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 (NIRA), the Social Security Administration, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and more.
Roosevelt exemplifies the Progressive belief in big government, the bigger the better.
But in the midst of all those programs which grew the government exponentially, President Roosevelt signed one very good act into law — the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, commonly known as the Pittman–Robertson Act for its sponsors, Nevada Senator Key Pittman and Virginia Congressman Absalom Willis Robertson.
Buried amidst the barrage of FDR-advanced federal programs, many today are wholly ignorant of the Pittman–Robertson Act and its phenomenal intentions and effects.
As written in a Wildlife Society policy brief:
In the early 1900s, sportsmen’s organizations and state wildlife agencies—concerned with unprecedented declines of wildlife populations in the United States—urged Congress to pass the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act.
The Act, passed in 1937, designates an excise tax on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment to be used by states to fund wildlife restoration. Today, the Act is often referred to as the Pittman-Robertson Act (P-R Act) after its two key champions: Senator Key Pittman of Nevada and Congressman Willis Robertson of Virginia.
The P-R Act generates funds through an 11 percent excise tax on long guns, ammunition, and archery equipment and a 10 percent excise tax on handguns.
More about P-R:
Prior to the creation of the Pittman–Robertson Act, many species of wildlife were driven to or near extinction by commercial/market hunting pressure and/or habitat degradation from humans. The Act created an excise tax that provides funds to each state to manage such animals and their habitats. Notable species that have come back from the brink since the implementation of this act include white-tailed deer, wild turkey, and wood ducks.
The Pittman–Robertson Act took over a pre-existing 11% excise tax on firearms and ammunition. Instead of going into the U.S. Treasury as it had done in the past, the money is kept separate and is given to the Secretary of the Interior to distribute to the States. The Secretary determines how much to give to each state based on a formula that takes into account both the area of the state and its number of licensed hunters.
States must fulfill certain requirements to use the money apportioned to them. None of the money from their hunting license sales may be used by anyone other than the states’s fish and game department. Plans for what to do with the money must be submitted to and approved by the Secretary of the Interior.
Acceptable options include research, surveys, management of wildlife and/or habitat, and acquisition or lease of land. Once a plan has been approved, the state must pay the full cost and is later reimbursed for up to 75% of that cost through P–R funds. The 25% of the cost that the state must pay generally comes from its hunting license sales.
Leftist gun-grabbers everywhere may be stunned to learn that the taxes collected from the sale of guns and ammo support wildlife and wildlife habitat.
Progressives perpetuate the lie which insists conservatives, and especially those who shoot and hunt, are, at best, apathetic to wildlife and the environment, and at worst, anti-environmentalists.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Just as most loggers are outdoorsmen who love the forests and actively re-plant stands, maintaining healthy trees of varying growth, even so most shooters and hunters love the out of doors, and their purchases support the very land and habitat they frequent.
Here’s a terrific video produced by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, an example of P-R tax dollars at work replenishing elk herds in West Virginia:
What an amazing story! Arizona, having replenished their elk population, beginning with a trans-location of 82 elk from Yellowstone National Park in 1913, was able to reciprocate and send 60 (or so) elk to West Virginia.
Now watch a video of the excitement in West Virginia over the elk restoration project:
Pittman–Robertson falls under the purview of the Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. If you’re not acquainted with Zinke you should be:
Ryan Zinke was sworn in as the 52nd Secretary of the Interior on March 1, 2017.
Growing up in a logging and rail town near Glacier National Park, Ryan has had a lifelong appreciation for conserving America’s natural beauty while honoring Teddy Roosevelt’s vision of multiple-use on our public lands. He has consistently led the efforts to renew the Land and Water Conservation Fund in Congress, and has also been a firm advocate for our nation’s sportsmen to gain access to our public lands with the SCORE Act and SHARE Act.
Zinke also coauthored the Resilient Federal Forest Act, which initiated new reforms for revitalizing America’s timber towns and preventing wildfires by emphasizing the collaborative process.
Zinke was commissioned as an officer in the Navy in 1985 and was soon selected to join the elite force where he would build an honorable career until his retirement in 2008. He retired with the rank of Commander after leading SEAL operations across the globe, including as the Deputy and Acting Commander of Joint Special Forces in Iraq and two tours at SEAL Team Six. Zinke was the first Navy SEAL elected to the U.S. House and is the first SEAL to serve as a cabinet secretary.
So the bottom line is, out of all the expensive and ever-growing federal programs FDR pushed forward, the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937 — the Pittman–Robertson Act — actually provides for some very good work maintaining wildlife species and their habitat.
P-R benefits further described:
Since 1939, the Wildlife Restoration Account has generated over $10 billion, leading to the purchase of approximately 4 million acres of land to support wildlife.
Funding from the P-R Act provides state wildlife agencies with a continuous, secure, and substantial source of funding. This benefits wildlife professionals working in or with state agencies, by ensuring that they have adequate resources to implement important projects to research, manage, and conserve public trust wildlife for the benefit of society.
The Wildlife Restoration Program, authorized under the P-R Act, provides grant funds to state fish and wildlife agencies to develop projects that restore, conserve, manage, and enhance wild birds and mammals and their habitats.
Here is one last video to drive home the point — hunters/shooters are an integral part of habitat and species conservation:
Habitat, research and wildlife law enforcement work are all paid for by hunters. It helps hunted species, as well as countless non-hunted species. Through state licenses and fees, hunters pay $796 million a year for conservation programs.
Through donations to groups like RMEF, hunters graciously add $440 million a year to conservation efforts. In 1937, hunters actually requested an 11% tax on guns, ammo, bows and arrows to help fund conservation. That tax generates $371 million a year for conservation. So far, it has raised more than $8 billion for wildlife conservation.
All-together, hunters pay more than $1.6 billion a year for conservation programs. No one gives more than hunters! Every single day U.S. sportsmen contribute $8 million to conservation.
Hunting funds conservation AND the economy, generating $38 billion a year in retail spending.
In the words of ROBAR President Freddie Blish:
Bottom line is that our nation’s wildlife benefits greatly from Modern Sporting Rifle enthusiasts, as well as handgun only shooters (10% tax on handguns). The firearms enthusiasts in this country do exponentially more to support the conservation of wildlife in the United States than all of the leftist environmental organizations (Sierra Club, etc) combined ($96M mostly spent on lobbying congress). Every time anti-gun leftists try to impede the sale of firearms and ammunition they are negatively impacting wildlife in this country.
On balance, Franklin Delano Roosevelt irreversibly crippled our country with metastasizing federal programs. But if he had one redeeming act, it was this Pittman–Robertson Act.
And should any uninformed liberals criticize your hunting or shooting habits, school them on the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, and how recreational shooters with AR-15 platforms donate even more proportionate to their purchase of ammo.
Moral of the story: hunters and shooters in America are the real heroes of wildlife and wilderness preservation.