Animal Conservation

Soaring gun sales yield record funds for conservation grants

BILLINGS, Mont. – Tax revenues from surging sales of firearms and ammunition in the United States have boosted funds for a federal conservation program to a record high in 2022, officials said Friday.

Excise taxes on firearms, ammunition and archery equipment raised $1.1 billion to fund federal grants to states for wildlife conservation and hunter education, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said.

A related program for fish restoration brought in nearly $400 million, from taxes on fishing gear and boat fuel, they said.

Restoration programs distribute tax money from hunting, shooting and fishing equipment to all 50 states and US territories. The taxes resulted from a 1937 law that sought to halt the rapid decline of many species of fish and other animals at the turn of the last century due to overhunting and habitat destruction.

Money for the wildlife program rose more than 60% from last year and shattered the previous high of $808 million in 2015, according to figures provided by the Fish and Wildlife spokesperson. , Laury Marshall.

The funding increase comes after at least 18.5 million firearms were sold last year, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Sales volume is based on the number of law enforcement background checks for gun buyers and is a minimum estimate, said Mark Oliva, director of public affairs for the arms industry group. fire.

There were a record 21 million background checks in 2020, he said. Ammunition sales also rose sharply during the pandemic, rising about 30%, Oliva said.

Texas is eligible to receive the most money from restoration programs this year, about $71 million, followed by Alaska, with about $66 million. The formula for determining each state’s amount is based on its land and water area and the number of fishing and hunting licenses it sells.

States decide how the money is used and usually match a portion of the grants with their own funds, which increases total spending.