Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act

The Pittman-Robertson Act directs excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment to be used for wildlife conservation purposes. To date, this important piece of legislation has contributed nearly $11.5 billion to wildlife conservation since enactment in 1937. Unfortunately, our nation has lost around 5 million license-purchasing hunters in the last decade. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Members, and sportsmen’s conservation partners are working to ensure the future of this important system of wildlife conservation funding.

Enacted in 1937, the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (Pittman-Robertson Act) redirected the existing excise taxes on firearms and ammunition to a dedicated fund to be used specifically for wildlife conservation purposes. Once collected, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and Internal Revenue Service deposits the excise taxes into the Wildlife Restoration Account, which is administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Pittman-Robertson funds are typically allocated among four subsections:

Basic Hunter Education for a hunter safety program; and the construction, operation, and maintenance of public target ranges,
Enhanced Hunter Education- $8 million is allocated among the states and territories. If a state has not spent all of its Basic Hunter Education funds, it is required to spend these funds on enhanced hunter education programs.
Multistate Conservation Grants (“Section 11”) – $3 million is set aside for projects that involve cooperation among multiple states.
Remainder of the Funds – the bulk of the Pittman-Robertson Program and is used for wildlife conservation. A small percentage of this section is distributed to U.S. territories.  The fund is then divided in half, with one half distributed to the states based on land mass, and the other half based on paid hunting licenses.

Traditionally, funding for state wildlife agencies is generated from the excise taxes contributed to P-R and related sporting license sales that help make up the American System of Conservation Funding. This “user-pays, public-benefits” program is the driver of wildlife conservation efforts in the United States. An increase in the contributions of hunters and recreational shooters will help stabilize the financial resources that are made available to state agencies through the Pittman-Robertson Fund and related license purchases in order to better manage wildlife habitat, increase access to public land and shooting ranges for hunting and recreational shooting, and recruit, retain, and reactivate more hunters and recreational shooters.

Recent Activity

In the 116th Congress, CSC Co-Chair Congressman Austin Scott (GA) reintroduced the Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act (H.R. 877) with fellow CSC leaders Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI), Congressman Marc Veasey (TX), and Congressman Richard Hudson (NC) as original cosponsors. On July 11, 2019, CSC Member Senator Jim Risch (ID) along with the entire CSC Senate Leadership as well as a few other CSC Members, introduced the Senate companion of Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act.

On December 19, 2019, Congress passed two legislative packages to fund the federal government for Fiscal Year 2019. One of these packages, H.R. 1865, included Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act, which became law on December 20, 2019. The inclusion of Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act is the direct result of efforts by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation to help secure the bill in an end of the year funding agreement.

This legislation will provide much needed flexibility to state wildlife agencies for the recruitment, retention, and reactivation of hunters and recreational shooters (R3).  Within the last decade, our nation has experienced a decline of nearly 5 million license purchasing hunters, which is the result of many factors including aging hunting populations, lack of access, decreased quality experiences in the field and waters, and a number of other factors. This legislation will provide states the ability to utilize Pittman-Robertson funds (P-R)  for hunter and recreational shooter R3 efforts through the promotion and marketing of educational programs to the sporting and non-sporting community, and will clarify that one of the purposes of P-R is to provide financial and technical assistance to the states for R3. Furthermore, this Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act provides states additional flexibility to implement the National Hunting and Shooting Sports Action plan, which is a comprehensive plan to implement nationwide R3 programs.

Research has indicated that nontraditional audiences such as minorities, females, and suburban and urban populations are interested in sporting related activities, but they do not have the training, knowledge, or opportunities to participate, which is what Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund will help address.


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