The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act
- The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act is also known as the Pittman-Robertson (or “P-R”) Act after its principal sponsors, Senator Key Pittman of Nevada, and Representative A. Willis Robertson of Virginia. The measure was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on September 2, 1937. The act was widely supported by sportsmen, when they essentially encouraged taxing themselves while the country remained mired in a depression. It was seen as a badly needed method to boost sagging or nonexistent conservation efforts. Today’s successful restoration work for ducks, deer, turkeys and numerous other wildlife species can trace its roots to Pittman-Robertson.
- The act generates funds from an 11 percent excise tax on sporting arms and ammunition that is collected at the manufacturers’ level. Funds are appropriated to the Secretary of the Interior and then apportioned to States using a two-pronged formula: 40 percent is based on a state’s geographic size and 60 percent is based on the number of hunting and fishing licenses sold annually. Generally, when a wildlife project is funded with matching funds, the cost split is 75 percent federal and 25 percent state. Project activities include acquisition and improvement of wildlife habitat, introduction of wildlife into suitable habitat, research into wildlife problems, surveys and inventories of wildlife populations, acquisition and development of access facilities for public use, and hunter education programs, including construction and operation of public target ranges. The act has been amended and expanded many times and has generated more than $2 billion, which states have matched with an estimated $500 million.
- South Carolina’s first major acquisition utilizing these funds was the March 11, 1941 purchase of Belmont Plantation which was later renamed the James W. Webb Wildlife Center and Management Area. Since that time the department has used these funds to purchase numerous other properties, restored multiple wildlife species, managed hundreds of thousands of acres of habitat and conducted critical research and survey work around the state.