The concept of hunter-supported wildlife conservation behind the Pittman-Robertson Act has been termed the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Since 1937, the Pittman-Robertson Act and this unique Model have been recognized as “the oldest and most successful wildlife management program in the nation’s history."This Note will argue that the government’s historical preoccupation with hunting overlooks the potential to extend the Model’s reach to the great outdoor industry prevalent in America. Specifically, the Model can be resuscitated if additional categories of outdoorsmen, like campers, hikers, and birdwatchers, are included as financial stakeholders in wildlife conservation. To broaden the conservation tax base, this Note proposes that the government should impose an excise tax on outdoor products that emulates the Pittman-Robertson Act. Endowed with a monetary voice, outdoorsmen will be incorporated into the public trust and their conservation goals can complement the Model’s prevailing hunting agenda. Furthermore, such a tax will not only supplement funding for the conservation of game species, but also provide fiscal support for often overlooked non-game species. Part II of this Note sets forth a history of the public trust doctrine and the early legal standing of wildlife in England and then America. The narration illustrated in Part II culminates with a description of the excise tax collected under the Pittman-Robertson Act. Next, Part III begins with the Act’s evolution towards becoming the Model. By exploring the link between the Act and the Model, Part III ultimately examines the interaction between hunters and the present state of wildlife conservation. Lastly, Part IV will explore the benefits of a new excise tax, one levied on the manufacturers and importers of outdoor products, for both the public trust and wildlife at large. The Model’s expansion is not intended to displace the successful work of hunters in the past, but to advocate for a more holistic approach to wildlife conservation in the present. If the Act and the Model can be modernized and thus improved, there is hope that neither will be anywhere near an end, whether that ending comes complete with a bang or not.
Note, Looking Beyond the Bang for More Bucks: A Legislative Gift to Fund Wildlife Conservation on Its 75th Anniversary, 60 Clev. St. L. Rev. 769 (2012)