Rising gun sales push wildlife funds to record levels

Iowa will receive about $15.6 million this year from federal excise tax revenues

Orlan Love
Published: March 30 2014 | 9:00 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 10:19 am in

Sales of guns and ammunition have boosted federal wildlife funding to record levels, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The funds are part of nearly $1.1 billion to be distributed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to all 50 states and territories to help pay for fish and wildlife conservation and recreation projects.

Iowa will receive about $15.6 million this year from federal excise tax revenues paid by anglers, hunters and boaters. Of that, $11.4 million goes to support wildlife and $4.2 million goes to support fisheries.

Total distributions from the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund are $238.4 million higher than last year primarily because of an increase in excise tax receipts from sales of firearms and ammunition, the Fish and Wildlife Service said.

Iowa’s $11.4 million share of the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program is up dramatically from the $5.6 million allocated to the state in 2013.

“People are buying more firearms, ammunition and archery equipment, and their excise taxes help develop more opportunities to use their equipment,” said Angie Bruce, a manager in the Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Bureau.

While the government does not track gun sales, background checks conducted for gun sales in 2013 hit a record 21.1 million -- a 7.6 percent increase over the previous record, 19.6 million in 2012, according to FBI statistics.

Revenues come from 10 percent to 11 percent excise taxes generated by the sale of sporting firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, fishing equipment and electric outboard motors. Recreational boaters also contribute to the program through fuel taxes on motorboats and small engines.

“Anyone who enjoys our nation’s outdoor heritage should thank hunters, anglers, recreational boaters and target shooters,” said Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program apportionment for 2014 totals a record $760.9 million. The Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Program apportionment for 2014 totals $325.7 million, which is $34.1 million lower than FY 2013 due to lower domestic fishing equipment excise tax receipts.

The Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program reimburses up to 75 percent of the cost of each eligible project, while state fish and wildlife agencies contribute a minimum of 25 percent, generally using hunting and fishing license revenues as the required match.

Funding is distributed to the states using a formula that takes into account physical area and the number of hunting and fishing licenses issued. Texas led all states with an allocation of $51.6 million, followed closely by Alaska with $48.8 million and California with $41.6 million. Three states contiguous with Iowa – Minnesota ($35.3 million), Wisconsin ($34.2 million) and Missouri ($27.8 million) -- ranked in the top 10.

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