For non-hunters, the thought of hunting doesn’t immediately bring to mind conservation work. Historically, however, hunters have provided both funds and direct efforts to helps support wildlife and conservation efforts around the country. Many people are surprised to learn that hunters provide the largest portion of wildlife conservation funding compared to any other demographic in the States.
Through both taxes and license fees, hunters have generated an impressive $896 million annually, an amount which has proven invaluable for bringing certain wildlife populations back to stable numbers and making research possible so that scientists can learn more about wildlife and their habitats.
Hunting Funds Conservation Efforts
Hunters provide around 60% of funding needed for state wildlife agencies. Over the years, hunting has financially supported efforts to maintain and protect wildlife through a variety of acts and legislature that has had significant monetary outcomes. For example, three specific acts have contributed major amounts of funding for conservation work:
- Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 – Also referred to as the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, this piece of legislation established an 11% tax on firearms and ammunition. The tax was imposed by hunters themselves in efforts to help restore poorly managed animal populations.
- Dingell-Hart Bill of 1970 – Today, this bill generates a staggering $40 million every year for wildlife restoration, including educating people on safe hunting practices. The revenue comes from a 10% tax on handguns, with each sale giving back to the wild.
- Dingell-Goodling Bill of 1972 – A few years after the 1970 hunting bill, a similar one was passed. The Dingell-Goodling Bill imposed an 11% tax on archery equipment, which results in an additional $20 million extra funds each year for wildlife restoration.
Hunting Supports Wildlife Research
Over the years, hunters have generated funds for important wildlife research through their purchases. Some of the work researchers have done has helped:
- Determine estimates for total animal populations in an area
- Obtain detailed information about hunter “harvests”
- Research the breeding and feeding habits of certain species
Overall, hunters, anglers, and others have contributed approximately $300 million in research funds for the benefit of animal species around the country. With these finds, scientists can carry out work that helps to maintain needed animal populations. They can pinpoint which areas are most at-risk for harm and direct further funds and care to protecting the animal species that need it most.
Hunting Aids in Species Recovery
Over the last hundred years, the funds that have been created due to a combination of license fees and taxes have helped bolster the numbers of endangered animal populations. For example, the wild turkey population was less than 650,000 in 1900. Today, this group numbers 7 million or more, meaning this species has experienced a growth of over 10 times its initial numbers at the start of the 20th century.
Likewise, the Rocky Mountain elk has also experienced a dramatic increase in population numbers. At the start of the 1900s, there were only 40,000 or so of these animals left in the country. Thanks to conservation efforts, these animals have experienced a population boom and now, in the 21st century, the United States is home to around one million Rocky Mountain elk.
A Decline in Hunters Means a Decline in Conservation
As the average number of hunts experiences a decline across the nation, the funds generated for wildlife conversation will also take a dive. This loss in conservation revenue highlights the fact that hunters have been contributing significant amounts to animal protection efforts over the last century and brings to light the positive work hunters have been doing for their communities.