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Gun sale surge brings record money for conservation grants

February 12, 2022 GMT

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Tax receipts from surging gun and ammunition sales in the U.S. boosted money for a federal conservation program to a record level in 2022, officials announced Friday.

Excise taxes on guns, ammunition and archery equipment brought in $1.1 billion to fund federal grants to states for state wildlife conservation and hunter education, said officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A related program for fish restoration brought in almost $400 million, from taxes on fishing equipment and boat fuel, they said.

The restoration programs distribute tax money from hunting, shooting and fishing equipment to all 50 states and U.S. territories. The taxes resulted from a 1937 law that aimed to stop the rapid decline of many species of fish and other animals early last century because of overhunting and habitat destruction.

Money for the wildlife program rose by more than 60% over last year and shattered the previous high of $808 million in 2015, according to figures provided by Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Laury Marshall.

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The increased funding comes after at least 18.5 million firearms were sold last year, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The sales volume is based on the number of law enforcement background checks for gun buyers and is a minimum estimate, said Mark Oliva, the firearm industry group’s public affairs director.

There were a record 21 million background checks in 2020, he said. Ammunition sales also have been up sharply during the pandemic, rising by about 30%, Oliva said.

Texas is eligible to receive the most money from the restoration programs this year, about $71 million, followed by Alaska, with about $66 million. The formula for deciding each state’s amount is based on its land and water area and the number of fishing and hunting licenses it sells.

States decide how the money is used and usually match a portion of the grants with their own funds, which increases total spending.