The government is us; we are the government, you and I. -Theodore Roosevelt

2008 North American Wildlife Policy Conference - Funding for Conservation of Fish and Wildlife and Their Habitats

Working Draft prepared by the White House Conference on North American Wildlife Policy


  1. Fish and wildlife conservation in America has been funded primarily by user fees (hunting and fishing licenses; migratory bird stamps; and excise taxes on arms, ammunition, archery, and fishing equipment, and motorboat fuel taxes). However, wildlife conservation needs have greatly diversified over the past century (wildlife conservation on private lands, disease management, human/wildlife conflict resolution, threatened and endangered species, conservation education, wildlife viewing, etc).
  2. While the Farm Bill, State Wildlife Grants, and some other federal and state programs have provided significant additional funding for conservation of wildlife habitat (especially on agricultural lands), there remains a persistent gap between the needs and the funding base. The costs of wildlife conservation have increased and diversified, new or modified sources of funding have been slow to emerge, and traditional sources of funding are not keeping pace.


  1. Re-evaluate the traditional sources of funding and consider changes that allow fish and wildlife conservation to grow with the public’s demands on these resources.
  2. Identify and develop sources of dedicated funding that will ensure adequate financial resources for diverse fish, wildlife, and habitat conservation needs and broaden the constituency for fish and wildlife conservation in the 21st Century.


  1. Although there is strong, widespread support for fish and wildlife conservation and public access to these resources, most people do not understand how conservation and access programs in America are currently funded.
  2. The number and percentage of people who finance conservation through purchase of licenses and stamps are declining while the number of people who enjoy wildlife and expect State and Federal agencies to ensure that they have the ability to enjoy wildlife is climbing. Most Americans who value wildlife and wildlife-related recreation, but do not hunt or fish, are not directly financing conservation, and they don’t know it.
  3. Federal appropriations to executive branch agencies for fish and wildlife conservation have declined significantly over the past two decades.
  4. While overall revenues to the Sport Fish Restoration Program have significantly increased due to addition of motorboat fuel taxes, federal excise tax collections from fishing, hunting, and shooting equipment have been relatively flat for many years. Administrative challenges in tax collection and fund allocation, along with an erosion of the traditional partnership between sportsmen, the sporting goods industry, and state and federal government reduce support for these core programs.
  5. While there are annual but sporadic Federal appropriations for State Wildlife Grants, and there have been discussions on future conservation funding from energy and climate change legislation, there are no sustainable sources of funding for many of the fish and wildlife conservation programs that will be important in the future.


  1. The amount and quality of fish and wildlife habitat on public and private lands and public access to these resources may seriously decline.
  2. Fish and wildlife populations and important ecological systems may decline.
  3. Human health and well-being may also be directly impacted by the loss and degradation of natural lands and waters and the spread of diseases and pests.
  4. Mandated expenditures and regulatory constraints due to maintenance, recovery, and litigation associated with Threatened and Endangered Species may increase.
  5.  Participation in fish and wildlife-related recreation may decrease, with serious economic impacts nationwide and substantial social impacts due to the loss of our hunting and fishing and outdoor heritage and a growing disconnect between people and the natural world.



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"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt