Elk NetworkHunting Is Conservation – The Fuzzy Future of Funding Conservation

Hunting | November 23, 2021

It takes very real dollars to pay for land and wildlife conservation.

Hunters, recreational shooters and anglers pay for the lion’s share of conservation thanks to excise taxes on their equipment, the purchase of licenses and fees, and donations to conservation groups like the hunter-supported Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Since 1937, excise taxes alone on guns, ammunition and archery equipment generated more than $14 billion specifically for conservation.

Since 1939, state agencies, which are tasked with managing fish and wildlife populations, received more than $62 billion. That amounts to 60 percent of their annual budgeted funding.

There are 28 million people in America.

Only four percent of them are hunters yet through hunting, they financially supply more than half the funding used to ensure the future of fish and wildlife.

And this comes at a time when more hikers, campers, mountain bikers, bird watchers and other recreationists are pouring into public forestlands, state and national parks, and additional open spaces more than at any time in recent memory.

  • For example, Colorado alone had 18.3 million visitors to its state parks in 2020 – that’s a 23 percent increase from one year earlier.
  • In Pennsylvania, visitation to state parks jumped by seven million.
  • And Yellowstone Park had 110 percent more visitors in October 2020 compared to 2019.

Additional funding streams for critical conservation dollars are difficult to come by.

A legislative effort in 2000 to benefit conservation would have placed a tax on outdoor equipment but the outdoor gear industry removed it in the bill’s final version.

On the flip side, here’s what some states are doing about it.

  • Arizona and Colorado set aside a portion of lottery proceeds to benefit conservation.
  • Colorado also recognized that everyone uses state wildlife areas and state trust lands even though hunter and angler dollars pay for their maintenance, so it now requires all adult visitors, even if they don’t hunt or fish, to possess a valid hunting or fishing license to gain access .
  • In 1984, Missouri voters approved a one eighth of one cent sales tax with proceeds earmarked for conservation, which generates about $107 million annually.
  • In 1996, Arkansas voters passed a similar measure that generated $475 million over its first 10 years to assist everything from elk to critically endangered species.
  • In 2018, Texas approved spending more than $275 million from sales taxes on outdoor gear for land conservation.

And some companies make conservation part of their bottom lines. Thanks to licensed merchandise agreements with dozens of outdoor industry partners, RMEF receives a portion of proceeds to benefit its mission.

Every dollar counts both now and into the future…more evidence why hunting is conservation.