Who Pays for Wildlife Conservation in Alabama?

Published 2:36 pm Thursday, March 12, 2015

By Michael Bloxom, Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries

Citizens in Alabama fund most state services including the Departments of Corrections, Public Safety, Education and many more by paying taxes. However, when it comes to wildlife conservation and management, funding comes from the sale of hunting licenses, guns, ammunition and archery equipment. No General Fund taxes are used to fund wildlife management activities in Alabama.

For more than 100 years, revenue from the sale of hunting licenses has helped to fund the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) and its mission. In 1937, a federal law called the Pittman-Robertson Act was created. This act, officially known as the Federal Assistance to Wildlife Restoration Act, was passed by Congress at the urging of the nation’s hunters and recreational shooters to provide federal funding for wildlife research, management and habitat improvement. The act has since been amended to provide funding for hunter education programs and the construction and operation of public shooting and archery ranges.

The Pittman-Robertson Act created an 11 percent excise tax on sporting arms, ammunition and archery equipment and a 10 percent excise tax on handguns. These funds are collected from the manufacturers and distributed to the states and territorial areas by the U.S. Department of Interior. Each state’s share is based on total land area and the number of paid licensed hunters in the state. The money is provided on a matching basis of three to one. ADCNR receives three federal dollars for every one dollar generated from the sale of hunting licenses. While this is technically a tax, the fee is not charged at the retail level or an extra tax paid by the consumer. The tax is already built into the price of guns, ammunition and archery equipment, and paid only by those who are purchasing the items, unlike an income tax or general sales tax that every consumer pays.

The Wildlife Section of ADCNR’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) has the primary responsibility of managing, protecting, conserving and enhancing the wildlife resources of Alabama. This mission applies to all wildlife, not just game species with open hunting seasons. WFF accomplishes this mission by operating and maintaining wildlife management areas, building and maintaining public shooting ranges, conducting wildlife research and administering hunter education programs in Alabama. Each person who buys a hunting license plays an important role in making the functions of the WFF possible. Each person who buys a box of ammunition, a new gun or even an arrow, also helps fund these and many more activities of the WFF. These two sources comprise 88 percent of the annual funding for the Wildlife Section. The remaining 12 percent is received from various state and federal sources, none of which is general tax monies.

There are many ways to enjoy Alabama’s natural resources. Bird watching, hiking and camping are just a few activities that outdoor enthusiasts enjoy. However, there are no licenses required to enjoy those activities and no specific taxes on binoculars, boots, tents or any of the other items used in outdoor recreation designated for wildlife related activities in Alabama. Those user groups do not directly contribute financially to WFF or its programs.

When you hear the success stories like the return of bald eagles from the brink of extinction or even enjoy a glimpse of wildlife, thank a hunting license buyer or a recreational shooter, because those groups of people are the ones funding wildlife management and conservation in Alabama. If you would like to be a part of contributing to wildlife efforts in Alabama, you can purchase a hunting license even if you never plan to go hunting. Your investment in that license and Alabama’s wildlife will be quadrupled thanks to the Pittman-Robertson Act.

For more information on funding for the enhancement of Alabama’s wildlife, call Wildlife Biologist Michael Bloxom at 334-242-3620 or visit www.outdooralabama.com.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR visit www.outdooralabama.com.