Early History of Conservation Funding

In 1937, Congress recognized the need for long-term dependable funding for state wildlife agencies and passed the Wildlife Restoration Act. Also known as the Pittman-Robertson (PR) Act, the law imposed a 10 percent manufacturer’s tax on hunting ammunition and firearms. Tax proceeds are distributed to state fish and wildlife agencies for research, habitat protection, hunting and recreation and species recovery.

In 1950 the Sport Fish Restoration Act-also called the Dingell-Johnson (DJ) Act-placed a 10 percent manufacturer’s tax on fishing rods, reels, and tackle to be distributed to state fish and wildlife agencies for sport fish restoration. In addition, the Wallop-Breaux Amendment was passed in 1984 expanding the Sportfish Restoration Act to include boating and angling gear. These additional funds support boating access and aquatic education programs.

Generating approximately $450 million annually, PR and DJ funds-along with the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and permits-have been the backbone of state game and sportfish management programs. Historically, PR funds have been instrumental in the recovery of whitetail deer and wild turkey, and most recently, the reintroduction of elk to Tennessee. Likewise, DJ funds are utilized for such programs as trout warm and coldwater fish stocking and management of reservoirs and streams.

While American sportsmen have traditionally supported game and sportfish management programs, the vast majority of Tennessee's wildlife is neither hunted nor fished, and a dependable funding source for nongame programs has been harder to sell. Funds from the Endangered Species Act helped to recover such well-known species as the bald eagle but there are many more nongame species in dire need of help.