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If passed, federal gun legislation could lessen funds given to states to conserve wildlife

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Posted at 4:02 PM, Apr 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-30 16:02:42-04

In the vast landscape that envelopes the farthest corners of Alabama, Marianne Hudson feels at home.

“It’s the perfect storm of moisture, canopy and shade conditions,” Hudson said as she surveyed the ground of the rural part of the state for different wildlife.

Hudson works for Alabama’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division as an outreach specialist. It is her duty to help preserve and protect the environment for different species that call the land home.

“I’ve always been one who felt like you enjoy the world around you the more you know about it,” she said.

Hudson’s knowledge is vast. She can tell you mating patterns of most Alabama wildlife, different flora that call the woods home, as well as how gun sales in the country allow her state, and every other state in the country, to preserve these cherished lands.

“Guns in America and their sale have a lot to do with our ability to conserve wildlife,” she said. “Just as the relationship with these wild species is interconnected with predator and prey, so does the effect of the funding on these resources.”

In 1934, the United States passed the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, commonly known as the Pittman Robertson Act. It mandated that each year, 10% of pistol and revolver sales in the United States, 11% of firearms and ammunition sales, and 11% of bows and archery sales would go to the secretary of the interior as a way to fund conservation efforts across the country.

The government would then dispense funds proportionally in respect to the number of hunting and fishing licenses each state sold that year.

It means for the last 87 years, a majority of the work to protect endangered species, their habitats and the lands we all enjoy has not been funded through income taxes, but guns.

“It’s a fact that we try to push anytime that we do a hunter education class. We’ve also started up some firearms 101 classes,” said Jason McHenry, a sergeant with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

This model is not unique to Alabama. It is followed by every state in the country. For the last six years, federal money given to states for conservation has fluctuated between $600 million and $800 million, but with talks of new gun regulations revived in Washington, that number could go down next year if legislation is passed.

“Anything that would impact the sale and demand for firearms and ammunition is going to have a later effect on the funding that is available for state conservation efforts,” said Hudson.

“I think that it’s paramount that [people] understand that,” added McHenry. “It gives them, as citizens, a buy-in. You know, to understand that not only am I just buying a license to have a check in the box and abiding the law and regulation, but that I’m also, as a citizen of Alabama, directly impacting conservation efforts.”