The Progeny of Pittman-Robertson

Mar 7, 2019

In light of Congressional passage of the Natural Resources Management Act that, as of press time, awaits President Trump’s expected signature, it seems a good time to reflect on the federal law that was the genesis of the phenomenally successful wildlife management programs we enjoy in this country today, the Pittman-Robertson Act.

Management of wildlife in this country is an expensive proposition, and the group that shoulders the bulk of the financial burden for wildlife in this country are America’s hunters. In addition to revenue generated by the various state wildlife agencies from license and tag sales, a big part of conservation money, billions of dollars since its inception, comes from a unique federal sales tax law called the Pittman-Robertson Act.

Supported by sportsmen and considered the turning point for wildlife conservation in the early 20th century, Pittman-Robertson was passed by Congress in 1937. Also known as the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration, the act imposes a tax on the sale of guns, ammunition, archery, and other sporting equipment in the United States. But this is not a tax that you pay at the cash register. The Pittman-Robertson tax is imposed at the manufacturers’ level, and is included in the price of your bow, gun or bullets. And while Pittman-Robertson adds to the cost of our sporting equipment, it has also been instrumental in adding to wildlife numbers in the United States. As examples: the pronghorn antelope from a population of 12,000 in 1900 to 1.1 million today; the elk from 41,000 to 800,000; wild turkey from 100,000 to 4.5 million; and the whitetail deer population grew from 500,000 in 1900 to over 30,000,000 today. These are just a few of the many examples of hunters paying the way for conservation.

Hunters were the first conservationists, and unlike the antis, hunters pay more than lip service to wildlife conservation. Hunters pay FOR wildlife conservation. And despite the “fake news” lies of the AR’s, it a fact that remains indisputable.