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Pittman-Robertson Modernization Act Would Strengthen Wildlife Conservation, America’s Outdoor Heritage

Legislation enables state wildlife agencies to expand hunter recruitment efforts and stabilize long-term funding for conservation

Washington, DC – The Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act (Pittman-Robertson Modernization Act) will strengthen hunters and other sportsmen’s ongoing support for wildlife conservation and ensure hunting, shooting sports, and outdoor recreation remain central to America’s wildlife heritage.

The new legislation, sponsored by Sens. James Risch (R-Idaho), would grow the ranks of hunters who support conservation efforts through excise taxes on firearms and equipment. The Pittman-Robertson Act was central to the founding of the National Wildlife Federation in 1936.

“The National Wildlife Federation urges swift, bipartisan passage of the Pittman-Robertson Modernization Act. The bill will help state agencies recruit future hunter-conservationists, who will in turn generate more revenue for wildlife conservation,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “Both the National Wildlife Federation and the Pittman-Robertson Act were born out of the same historic meeting in 1936, and we’re proud to have helped lead the coalition that passed it in 1937. This strategic adjustment 82 years later will ensure that America’s hunters continue to be leading funders of wildlife conservation through excise taxes on hunting gear, as we bolster the ranks of sportswomen and sportsmen across our nation.”

The Pittman-Robertson Modernization Act would authorize some funding from Pittman-Robertson excise taxes on hunting and shooting equipment to be spent by state wildlife agencies on recruiting and marketing to hunters and recreational shooters in order to reverse declines in hunting participation, which provides funding for wildlife conservation.

The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, commonly known at the Pittman-Robertson Act, has been instrumental in recovering many of America’s wildlife species since it was originally passed in 1937 to distribute an excise tax on firearms and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies for conservation efforts. It includes an 11% tax on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment that is apportioned to state wildlife agencies each year for wildlife conservation and hunter education. Since distributions began in 1939, it has provided $18.8 billion to state fish and wildlife agencies, all funded by hunters and recreational shooters.

However, the number of hunters has declined in recent decades, from 14.1 million hunters in 1991 to 11.5 million by 2016, according to the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, & Wildlife-Associated Recreation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and projections forecast that number will continue to drop without the efforts that the Pittman-Robertson Modernization Act will allow.

The Pittman-Robertson Modernization Act is co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Angus King (I-Maine), and John Boozman (R-Ark.). Learn about the National Wildlife Federation's work with hunters and anglers at www.nwf.org/outdoors.

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