MDC and PRA: 85 years of serving nature and you

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – This year marks the 85th anniversary of conservation history being made both in Missouri and across the nation.

In Missouri in 1937, the work of the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) began when citizen-led efforts created the state conservation agency and the Missouri Conservation Commission. The non-political, science-focused state conservation agency was a new and unique concept for the time. MDC’s beginnings 85 years ago came at a time when Missouri's fisheries, forests, and wildlife populations were largely decimated from the commercial overharvest of these resources and support for conservation was often tied to political interests.   

In Washington in 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, popularly known as the Pittman–Robertson Act (PRA). Sponsored by Senator Key Pittman of Nevada and Congressman A. Willis Robertson of Virginia, the first-of-its-kind legislation provided federal funds through grants to states for wildlife restoration, wildlife habitat, and wildlife management research.

The PRA established a manufacturers' excise tax on guns, ammunition, and archery equipment. The taxes are collected from manufacturers and then distributed annually as grants to states and territorial areas by the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. States typically must provide an investment of one dollar for every three dollars in federal funding that is granted. In most cases, state hunting and fishing license fees are used to meet this matching requirement.

The PRA has been amended over the decades to also include funding for hunter education programs, for the development and operation of public shooting ranges, and for “recruitment, retention, and reactivation” to boost the numbers of hunters, trappers, and recreational shooters.

PRA Monies for Missouri

“Federal reimbursement monies from the Pittman–Robertson Act have been and continue to be an essential source of funding for MDC,” said MDC Director Sara Parker Pauley. “Without those funds over the past 85 years, we would not have been able to restore deer and turkey populations around the state, bring back once-native elk to the Ozarks, fund our hunter education program and dozens of shooting ranges around the state, or do much of the extensive wildlife habitat restoration and wildlife research done by MDC staff.”

Pauley added that over the decades and into today, the PRA has provided funding for MDC to establish and manage more than 1 million acres of wildlife habitat around the state, including  more than 1,000 conservation areas and natural areas along with river accesses and nature centers.  

In Missouri, the PRA also helps fund MDC’s five staffed and 70 unstaffed shooting ranges around the state.

Funds from the PRA also provide hunter education training and certification to thousands of Missouri hunters each year. Over its 85-year history, MDC has provided hunter education training and certification to about 1.4 million Missourians. 

The PRA also continues to be essential in providing MDC funding for key habitat management, conservation research, and wildlife restoration for numerous wildlife species including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, quail, waterfowl, elk, and others.

Federal reimbursements, such as from the PRA, account for about 14% of MDC’s annual revenue. MDC received about $30 million through the Pittman-Robertson Act in 2021. Other principal sources of MDC revenue come from the sale of hunting and fishing permits, the dedicated conservation sales tax of one-eighth of one percent, and revenue from the administration of forest, fish and wildlife resources.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, on average, more than 80 percent of funding for the annual budgets of state fish and wildlife agencies is derived from hunting and fishing license fees and federal reimbursements such as from the PRA. Without these revenues, most states would be unable to maintain programs that sustain healthy populations of fish and wildlife. They would also be unable to meet public demand for outdoor recreation or support hunter education and shooting programs. Since the inception of the PRA, more than $14 billion has been shared with states to support conservation projects across North America.

Partner with a Payer Benefits Missouri Conservation

The assistance federal dollars provide to a variety of Missouri’s conservation programs was highlighted this summer when staff from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and manufacturer Fiocchi of America Inc. near Ozark toured MDC’s Andy Dalton Shooting Range and Outdoor Education Center near Ash Grove. The tour was to promote the USFWS’ Partner with a Payer program that emphasizes conservation benefits that are products of the partnerships between manufacturers who pay excise taxes through the USFWS’ Wildlife Sport and Fish restoration program and state conservation agencies that are on the receiving end of these funds. Learn more at and Watch a related video at

Learn More

For more information on the Pittman-Robertson Act, visit the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service online at

For more information on MDC and how the agency spends its revenues on taking care of nature, connecting people with nature, and maintaining public trust, read the latest MDC Annual Review in the January 2022 issue of the Missouri Conservationist online at

For more information on MDC’s extensive research projects on fish, forests, wildlife species, and other topics, visit

For more information on MDC’s strategic plans for managing Missouri's fish, forests, and wildlife, visit