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February 1, 2023

SHOT TV Rewind: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Talks ‘Partner with A Payer’ Program

By Matt Manda

A point of pride for the firearm and ammunition industry is the billions of dollars contributed to ensure America’s wildlife populations are healthy and that public lands are maintained and accessible.

To date, since The Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund, commonly known as the Pittman-Robertson fund, was created in 1937, firearm and ammunition manufacturers have contributed over $22.4 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars. Those taxes are paid by firearm and ammunition manufacturers and supported by outdoors enthusiasts when they purchase those products.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) biologists Tom Decker and Cliff Schleusner joined SHOT Show TV to talk about one of the best ways America’s outdoorsmen and women can see the direct impact their support of industry has on flourishing and healthy wildlife populations.

It’s called Partner with a Payer®.

‘Fundamentally Important’

The Pittman-Robertson excise tax applies to all firearms and ammunition produced for the domestic commercial market, whether for recreational shooting, hunting or personal defense. The tax is set at 11 percent of the wholesale price for long guns and ammunition and 10 percent for handguns and is administered by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) of the Department of the Treasury, which turns the funds over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

USFWS biologist Tom Decker explained the importance of Pittman-Robertson to wildlife management.

“That tax is fundamentally important for conservation and public opportunities to get outside nationally,” Decker explained. “And the Partner with a Payer program is designed – it’s an interactive program – to get manufacturers out in the field with state fish and wildlife agencies to do all kinds of work… and then to get state and federal employees into manufacturing facilities so they understand the genesis of this funding source.”

Decker described how USFWS allocates the funds each year back to the states based on a formula to be used by the state agencies on conservation and wildlife management projects. It cannot be diverted or used in any other manner.

“Much of the scientific information we know to manage the nation’s wildlife comes from that funding source,” he said. “It’s critical.”

Record of Success

USFWS biologist Cliff Schleusner praised the industry’s impact for conservation. The Pittman-Robertson fund received more than $1.4 billion in excise taxes last year alone. That money is put to good use for conservation and recreational shooting opportunities.

“Pittman-Robertson provides for conservation of like over 500 species,” Schleusner said. “It supports over 850 public shooting ranges, providing public recreational shooting opportunities. It provides for hunter education programs in all 50 states, which annually I think they train over one million people in the safe handling of firearms. It also supports public access to hunting areas, about 43 million acres.”

Decker reiterated that these are industry-derived funds, not taxes from the general fund paid by all taxpayers. These specific taxes are the primary funding source for American wildlife and habitat conservation.

“That money all gets pooled together towards these conservation or public opportunity programs that are afforded to people who are participating in the activities themselves,” Decker said.

Seeing Up Close

NSSF partnered with USFWS to develop the Partner with a Payer program. It was initiated with the goal of strengthening ties between the industry – specifically those people within the industry – that makes this conservation partnership work.

One recent example of the connection between industry, USFWS and the conservation projects involved NSSF staff, along with Benelli employees traveling with a team of biologists from Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR), to visit a bear den and see how these firearm industry excise tax dollars were being used. That’s been repeated in other states with Sig Sauer, Ruger, Colt, Mossberg and other companies.

Once included on a list of “endangered species,” Maryland’s black bears have seen a remarkable rebound, in part, thanks to the firearm industry’s contributions. According to Maryland DNR, there are approximately 2,500 black bears that are located primarily in four western Maryland counties including Garrett, Allegany, Washington and Fredrick.

To watch the full SHOT Show TV segment with USFWS Biologists Tom Decker and Cliff Schleusner, click here. To read more about Partner with a Payer, click here.

See More SHOT TV Studio Exclusive Interviews

Watch the SHOT TV Studio playlist to learn about some of the latest products, and information on important industry programs, research, events and more.

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Partners in Sustainable Funding and ConservationFoster Hunting, the Shooting Sports, Archery and Sport Fishing

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