Federal Funding and State Wildlife Conservation

Dean Lueck and Dominic P Parker


Federal aid programs subsidize local governments in sectors ranging from healthcare to transportation but there is little empirical study of their effects on local provision. We examine the effects of America’s oldest program in the area of environmental conservation, which was created by the 1937 Pittman-Robertson Act to direct federal tax revenue from guns and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies on the condition that receiving states not divert license revenues to purposes unrelated to wildlife conservation. Our theoretical model explains why the program could have increased or decreased revenue from license sales leading to ambiguous effects on agency budgets and wildlife conservation. Panel data for 1925-2018 suggests the program increased license sales and revenue leading to positive effects on long-run conservation.