In the mid-1930s, at a time when Congress was in the process of abolishing excise taxes on some goods, sportsmen groups and other conservationists saw an opportunity to use the excise tax on guns and ammunition to fund wildlife restoration projects. Ammunition companies supported the proposal, and Carl Shoemaker, former chief of the Oregon Department of Fish and Game, drafted the legislation. Shoemaker enlisted the support of Senator Key Pittman of Nevada to introduce the bill in the Senate, and approached Congressman A. Willis Robertson for support in the House of Representatives. The Pittman-Robertson (P-R) Federal Aid to Wildlife Restoration Act sailed through Congress. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the bill into law on September 2, 1937, turning a deaf ear to protests that earmarking funds from excise taxes was not in the country’s best interest. Today, on its 75th anniversary, the program has proved without a doubt that it has been in the very best interest of the country.
From the outset, P-R projects included the purchase of land for wildlife restoration; improvement of wildlife habitat; and wildlife research projects. For example, Connecticut acquired nearly 10,000 acres of land, including key wetlands along Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River. The P-R program also gave birth to scientific wildlife management in this country. It has turned into one of the most successful federal-state-conservationist-sportsmen partnerships in history.
Following the success of the P-R Program, sportsmen and other conservationists sought to establish a stable and secure mechanism to fund the restoration of America’s fisheries. In 1950, the United States established a Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act that generates funding for fisheries research, habitat restoration, recreational boating access, construction of fish hatcheries, and aquatic education.
Sportsmen have contributed more than $12 billion to conservation through license revenues and the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs (WSFR), annually providing more than 80% of the funding for most state fish and wildlife agencies. For 75 years, WSFR has been driving the restoration and management of our fish and wildlife resources. It has been justly called the most successful conservation management program in the world. America’s hunters, shooters, anglers, and boaters should be proud that they have held the program on their shoulders for 75 years.
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.