American System of Conservation Funding


For over 80 years, sportsmen have played an integral and unique role in providing the vast majority of conservation funding in the United States through a “user-pays, public-benefits” structure in which those who consumptively use the resource pay for the privilege, and in some cases the right, to do so.


For 80 years, sportsmen and women have played a crucial role in funding conservation in the United States through the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF). The American System is a “user pays — public benefits” structure, unique to the rest of the world, in which those that consumptively use public resources pay for the privilege, and in some cases the right, to do so.

There are three pillars to the ASCF: revenue from sporting licenses, and excise tax revenue from both the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration (WSFR) Programs. Sporting licenses were the first example of this “user pays — public benefits” structure. In some cases license sales made the entire funding source for the creation of state wildlife agencies such as the Department of Natural Resources or Fish & Game. Later, the passage of the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (Pittman-Robertson Act) and the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act (Dingell-Johnson Act) set up a system in which excise taxes collected from sporting goods purchases are funneled back into conservation. These excise taxes are used to fund a wide variety of activities including: fish and wildlife research, private and public habitat management, hunter education, shooting range development, land acquisition and easements, and angler access area construction. To date, the WSFR alone has contributed more than $18 billion to conservation – money that stems directly from sportsmen. Since 1939, state fish and wildlife agencies have received over $57.4 billion from sportsmen and women through this funding structure.

Points of Interest

  • State fish and wildlife agencies are funded primarily (in some cases nearly 100%) by the ASCF. 
  • In 2015 alone, state fish and wildlife agencies received over $823 million from Pittman-Robertson Funds, and over $624 million from Dingell-Johnson/Wallop-Breaux. 
  • Through 2015, resolutions celebrating WSFR and the ASCF have been passed in 17 states (AL, AK, CA, CO, IL, IN, KS, KY, MO, NE, NM, NY, NC, PA, SC, VT, and VA) and proclamations have been signed by governors in eight states (AR, CO, ID, IA, MD, SD, VT, and VA). 


In recognition of this vital funding mechanism 22 states have either passed resolutions or signed proclamations commemorating the 75th Anniversary (2012) of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration programs and the important role that America’s sportsmen and women play in providing critical funding for state fish and wildlife agencies. A few of the many examples are found below:

  • Indiana SCR 31: “SECTION 1. That the Indiana General Assembly recognizes the 75th  Anniversary of America's hunters, anglers, trappers, boaters, recreational shooters, industry, state fish and wildlife agencies, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their leading role in restoring healthy populations of fish, wildlife and other natural resources supported by the American System of Conservation Funding.”
  • South Carolina HR 4805: “That the members of the House of Representatives of the State of South Carolina, by this resolution, recognize and honor the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, and congratulate the partners in this program for seventy-five years of progress in wildlife conservation…” 

Moving Forward

Sportsmen and women are the backbone of the ASCF. Their funds and cooperative partnerships should continue to be unaffected and permanently exempted from federal budget sequestration as they are the funds spent by and are fully integrated into the budget and operations of the state fish and wildlife agency. Together with license dollars, these funds are critical to meeting the agency missions and conserving our nation’s vast array of fish and wildlife resources. 


For more information regarding this issue, please contact: 
Brent Miller at (202) 543-6850 x13;

Legislative Alerts


Description Download
American System of Conservation Funding Brief Download File
True Identity of America's Conservationists Paper Download File
Conservationist Contributions Infographic Download File

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