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The Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937

September 02, 1937
The Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937 Congressional Pictorial Directory of the 74th Congress Representative Absalom Willis Robertson of Virginia served for about 14 years in the House before his appointment to the Senate in 1946.
On this date, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Wildlife Restoration Act, also known as the Pittman–Robertson Act of 1937. Named after its sponsors Key Pittman of Nevada in the Senate and Absalom Willis Robertson of Virginia in the House, the act directed taxes on firearms and ammunition sales back to the individual states to fund wildlife management and habitat protection. Among the more pressing issues was rehabbing migratory bird habitats. The state of Georgia proposed using its funds to dig freshwater feeding ponds, while New York planned to buy “additional game lands” to plant cover and food. While the Wildlife Restoration Act signaled a new step in conservation, its attempt to manage natural resources with public money fell squarely within New Deal thinking. Like the Duck Stamp Act of 1934, which levied a similar user fee on hunting licenses and expanded the federal government into areas once considered the jurisdiction of state and private enterprise, the new act encouraged cooperation between federal and state officials, and the hunting public. Representative Charles D. Millard of New York even compared it to the New Deal’s effect on America’s booming infrastructure: “It is fundamentally sound,” said Millard, “and will do for the wildlife of America what the Federal-aid program has done for the highway system of our Nation.” The act met wide approval, renewing interest in conservation. Surprised at Congress’s concern for the environment, Representative Robertson credited the act with galvanizing the National Wildlife Federation, which received “more popular support than any conservation organization ever has had before.” Dr. Ira N. Gabrielson, chief of the Bureau of Biological Survey, echoed Robertson’s surprise. “Actually,” he noted, “the response out through the country to the Pittman–Robertson Act exceeds our highest expectations.”

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