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Federal fish, wildlife funds boost Missouri conservation

From the Missouri Department of Conservation

Missouri Department of Conservation-- Missouri’s hunters and anglers asked for the privilege of paying taxes on their equipment to pay for fish and wildlife restoration. That means Missouri is on track to receive upwards of $21 million this fiscal year from federal excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, fishing gear and marine engine fuels.

This year’s apportionment will bring the Show-Me State’s total receipts of federal fish and wildlife restoration funds to nearly $300 million.

Since 1937, Missouri has been using its share of the federal funds to underwrite fish and wildlife conservation efforts as diverse as restoring game animals and endangered species to purchasing land for outdoor recreation.

One little-known and remarkable thing about these funds is the fact that hunters and anglers insisted that Congress allow them to pay taxes to raise money for conservation. Amazingly, hunters asked to be taxed in the depths of the Great Depression.

Congress passed the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (also called the Pittman-Robertson Act for its two sponsors) in 1937. The nation still was mired in the economic devastation wrought by the stock market crash of 1929. Just as depressing for many hunters was the state of the nation’s wildlife resources.

After more than a century of unregulated and heedless exploitation, white-tailed deer and wild turkey populations teetered on the brink of extirpation in many states. Waterfowl numbers were at unprecedented lows. It seemed possible that once-abundant species, such as the wood duck, might go extinct.

Hunters across the nation banded together and demanded action to save wildlife, even asking to pay for it themselves. It was not merely coincidence that Missouri citizens amended their constitution about this same time to devise an unprecedented kind of agency to promote science-based conservation.

Anglers experienced a similar awakening a few years later, faced with polluted streams and depleted fish stocks. They mobilized to secure passage of the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1951. This law, better known as the Dingell-Johnson Act, established a tax on fishing gear.

Those federal tax funds, augmented by amendments to expand their scope, now channel roughly $800 million annually into state-based conservation programs nationwide. The return on this investment, measured in recreational and economic activity and enhanced mental and physical health, are beyond calculating.

This year’s federal aid in sport fish and wildlife restoration money is helping pay for a wide range of projects in Missouri. For more information about the federal aid in fish and wildlife restoration acts, visit http://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/

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