NEWTOWN, Conn. — Executives from America’s leading firearms and ammunition manufacturers gathered this evening to mark an important milestone in the firearms and ammunition industry’s longstanding support of wildlife conservation. Manufacturers have since 1991 contributed more than $3 billion dollars to fund wildlife conservation through the payment of a federal excise tax on the sale of their products. The excise tax is a primary source of wildlife conservation funding in the United States. Since the inception of the excise tax in 1937, more than $5 billion dollars has been collected.
In recognition of this milestone, a commemorative check for $3 billion dollars was presented to H. Dale Hall, the director of U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and Matt Hogan, the executive director of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), from key firearms industry leaders at the annual membership meeting of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) – the industry’s trade association.
“Our industry is proud of its leading role in financially supporting wildlife conservation and protecting habitat,” said Doug Painter, NSSF president and chief executive officer. “We are especially proud that our industry stepped up to the plate for America’s wildlife and natural resources decades before ‘environmentalism’ became a popular movement.”
The federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition products (11 percent on long guns and ammunition and 10 percent on handguns), is collected by the U.S. Treasury, Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and given to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) where it is deposited into the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund, commonly referred to as the Pittman-Robertson Trust Fund. These taxes are the major source of conservation funding in the United States.
“The federal excise taxes paid by manufacturers of firearms and ammunition through the Wildlife Restoration program provide state wildlife agencies this critical funding necessary to help maintain wildlife resources, educate hunters and fund sport shooting ranges nationwide,” said Hall. “For example, my home state of Kentucky used these funds to restore elk populations to sustainable levels. Now, for the first time in hundreds of years, sportsmen and women have the opportunity to hunt elk east of the Mississippi River.”
In just the past 12 months, the firearms and ammunition industry has contributed more than $280 million to conservation via the Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax (FAET). This amount of money demonstrates a 41 percent increase over the last five years. The complete amount collected through federal excise tax payments, a number which includes payments from the archery and fishing industries, tops $1 billion a year.
“For over 70 years, state fish and wildlife agencies have used the revenue from the Pittman-Robertson program to build the most successful wildlife conservation model the world has ever known,” said Hogan. “One needs only look at the return of species like the whitetail deer, wild turkey, pronghorn antelope and the wood duck, to name a few, to see that this money has been well spent for the benefit of all Americans.”
Industry Introduces Plan to Supplement NAWCA
Demonstrating its continued support for conservation, industry announced a plan to supplement congressional funding (currently $75 million dollars) of the North American Wetland Conservation Act — a grant program providing federal cost-share funding to support the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. “NSSF is proud to announce a new multi-pronged three-year initiative to support wetlands conservation,” commented Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel.
As part of the NSSF proposal, the trade association has promised to use staff resources to work with its partners in the shooting, hunting and outdoor communities to better promote NAWCA at industry events. NSSF will also advocate for stronger congressional funding for NAWCA during the appropriations process and will contribute $150,000 annually for the next three fiscal years to a mutually agreed upon NAWCA project.
“We understand the value of wildlife conservation and preserving migratory bird habitat, and we are fully vested in ensuring that the hunters and sportsmen who use our products have game to hunt and places to go hunting so that they can enjoy this important national heritage and pass it onto the next generation,” concluded Painter.
To learn how Pittman-Robertson Funds are used in your state, please contact your state fish and wildlife agency.