Americans have spent a lot of money on guns and ammunition in recent years, and that has sent revenues pouring into Alaska’s budget for wildlife conservation. The money flow is due to the Pittman-Robertson act, a 1937 law that imposes a tax on firearms and sends it to the states for wildlife projects.
Tuesday, the U.S. Interior Department announced Alaska’s share of the tax revenues is $33 million, more than double what the state got just six years ago.
The allocation formula takes geographic size into account, so Alaska is getting more from the fund than any state besides Texas.
“Pittman-Robertson funds account for the majority of our funding, of our division’s funding,” Maria Gladziszewski, deputy director of Alaska’s Division of Wildlife Conservation, said. “It is the core funding for wildlife conservation, and it has been for decades.”
Gladziszewski said the revenues have gone up so steeply that it’s hard to make full use of them. The state has had to give back about $3 million since 2016. Pittman-Robertson money can only be used on certain types of projects, and there’s a two-year deadline. Gladziszewski said Alaska has spent some of its money on things like road pullouts and trails, to give hunters better access.
“We are doing our best to obligate all those funds and do good projects for Alaskans and Alaska wildlife,” Gladziszewski said.
Also, it’s been a challenge for the state to come up with the required 25 percent matching funds. Last year the Alaska Legislature boosted state revenues by increasing the cost of hunting and fishing licenses, with instructions not to leave federal money on the table.
Gladziszewski credits hunters and fishermen for supporting the bill.
“It’s because hunters and anglers care about wildlife conservation,” Gladziszewski said. “They are the only constituency that has stepped up to say, ‘We value this service. We want to pay more money.'”
Nationally, gun sales shot up during the years Barack Obama was president. Some indicators show they dropped sharply in the months after President Trump took office.