The recent rush by gun enthusiasts to buy firearms could have a surprising consequence: millions more dollars to protect pheasants, deer and other wildlife.
A 75-year-old program finances wildlife projects with revenue collected from a federal excise taxes on firearms. The Wildlife Restoration Fund has sent billions of dollars to states over the years, helping them buy, develop and maintain land for wildlife management.
Now, at a time of major belt-tightening for state environmental programs, the surge in gun sales across the U.S., spurred by fears of a legislative crackdown on some firearms, represents one bright spot for wildlife officials.
The excise tax on pistols and revolvers is set at 10 percent, while other firearms, shells or cartridges are taxed at 11 percent. Total collections in 2012 were more than $555 million, up from $388 million during the previous year, following two years of declining revenue, according to a recent Congressional Research Service report. This year, amid the recent surge in gun sales after the Connecticut school shootings, officials expect that number to spike even higher.