Wildlife Conservation & Management Funding in the U.S.

Wildlife Conservation & Management Funding in the U.S.

By Mark E. Smith and Donald A. Molde

October 2014


The authors present a novel approach to help answer the question “Who really pays for wildlife in the U.S?” Using public information about budgets of various conservation, wildlife advocacy, and land management agencies and non-profit organizations, published studies and educated assumptions regarding sources of Pittman-Robertson Act and Dingle-Johnson Act federal excise monies from the sale of sporting equipment, the authors contend that approximately 95% of federal, 88% of non-profit, and 94% of total funding for wildlife conservation and management come from the non-hunting public. The authors further contend that a proper understanding and accurate public perception of this funding question is a necessary next step in furthering the current debate as to whether and how much influence the general public should have at the wildlife policy-making level, particularly within state wildlife agencies.

Read the full paper here.

The Pittman-Robertson & Dingell-Johnston Acts: from where does the money come?

Many state wildlife agencies including the Nevada Dept. of Wildlife get a majority of their funding from federal tax transfers and grants. Most of that money comes from two federal excise tax programs commonly known as the Pittman-Robertson Act (PRA) and the Dingell-Johnston Act (DJA). Sportsmen and wildlife agencies, including our very own NDoW, often claim that this money is principally hunter-generated. As it turns out, that’s demonstrably untrue.

In 2013 the PRA generated 59% of the combined excise tax revenue and the DJA 41%. Here’s the breakdown of revenue (as percentages) by category of activity, according to ATF and USDFW figures:

  • 28% from motorboat & small engine fuel
  • 22% from rifles & shotguns
  • 18% from pistols and revolvers
  • 18% from ammunition
  • 7% from import duties on boats & interest on trust fund deposits
  • 7% from fishing equipment, tackle, trolling motors & archery equipment