Taxes on firearms and ammunition sales have raised $15 billion for a special trust fund that conserves and restores natural habitats for the nation’s wide array of wildlife.
That is according to a Thursday press release from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association that represents the nation’s firearms industry. The number represents a new milestone for the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund, which gets its funding primarily from gun excise taxes.
“This is an achievement for which all in the firearm and ammunition industry are proud,” Joe Bartozzi, NSSF President, said in the statement. “This historic milestone is indicative of the value this industry places on the conservation of wildlife and the habitats in which they thrive.”
Thanks to the fund, populations of several different game species have been recovered and restored. The rocky mountain elk, whitetail deer, pronghorn antelope, and wild turkey are among those helped by the fund. Non-game species, including the American Bald Eagle, have also benefited from the revenue. The firearm industry contributions to the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund surpassed the mark of $14 billion at the start of 2021. That means taxes on rising gun sales generated approximately $1 billion for the effort over the past year.
Revenue for the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund comes from a special excise tax imposed on all firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment manufactured or imported into the United States. That tax is 10 percent of the wholesale price for handguns and 11 percent of the wholesale price for ammunition and long guns. The Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, also known as the Pittman-Robertson Act, created the fund. Nevada Senator Key Pittman (D.) and Virginia Representative Absalom Robertson (D.) championed the law as a way to help fund state efforts to rehabilitate and protect natural habitats for wildlife.
NSSF said the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau collects the excise tax on all firearms and ammunition and then turns those funds over to the Interior Department’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The USFWS, in turn, deposits that money into the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund, and then those funds are distributed on an annual basis among the several states and territories.
According to an Interior Department (DOI) press release in February, more than $1.5 billion was paid out from the trust fund by the USFWS in 2021. While much of that funding came from the excise tax on firearms and ammunition, the remainder came from a similar trust fund program and excise tax on boating and fishing equipment. That DOI release noted the statutory formula for distribution of the trust fund money for conservation and restoration projects involves recipient states and territories putting up 25 percent in matching funds to the 75 percent of total project costs provided by the USFWS.
Since the inception of the programs, the USFWS has paid out more than $25.5 billion for various conservation and recreation projects in the states and territories, with those states and territories pitching in an additional $8.5 billion in funding over the years from revenue they collect from fees on hunting and fishing licenses.