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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 20  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 24-35

Violent Entanglements: The Pittman-Robertson Act, Firearms, and the Financing of Conservation

1 Department of Geography, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA
2 John Glenn College of Public Affairs and Department of Sociology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA; Sustainability Institute, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA

Correspondence Address:
John P Casellas Connors
Department of Geography, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/cs.cs_82_21

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Environmental politics in the United States have become inseparable from the politics of guns. The Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 transformed conservation policy and funding in the United States, establishing the Federal Aid to Wildlife Restoration Account, which generates public revenue for conservation through a tax on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment. As the manufacture and purchase of firearms and ammunition have increased rapidly in recent years, the funds flowing to conservation have also grown. Despite allotting more than USD750 million to states in 2020 alone, the Pittman-Robertson Act has been overlooked in discussions of the political economy of conservation. Here, we compare the four largest sources of revenue for state wildlife and conservation agencies and demonstrate the growing importance of Pittman-Robertson as gun sales increase. We argue that the position of firearms in conservation has shifted, disrupting widely held ideals of conservation and undermining the 'user pays’ model that is argued to undergird conservation activities in the United States. We explore the ethical concerns produced by this emerging relationship and the ways Pittman-Robertson entangles conservation with guns and violence.

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