Under the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, fish and wildlife belong to all North American citizens and are to be managed in trust for their benefit.
At the beginning of the 20th century, America's once-numerous game birds, mammals, and fish were largely depleted. In the 1930s this situation began to change. Game species and fish rebounded as hunting and fishing harvests were better regulated, wildlife areas created, habitat actively managed, and wildlife populations augmented or restored with transplanted animals. Much of this effort was first funded by sportsmen through hunting and fishing licenses and later by excise taxes placed on hunting and fishing equipment under the Pittman-Roberston Act and later the Wallop-Breaux / Dingell-Johnson Acts (collectively, the WSFR Program).
Wildlife and sportfish restoration trust funds, once distributed annually to state and territorial fish and wildlife agencies, can be used for programs and projects including:
- Reintroduction of declining species
- Wildlife population surveys and other research
- Hunter and aquatic education
- Firearm safety
- Acquisition and restoration of wildlife habitat
- Creation of shooting ranges and boating infrastructure
The WSFR Program undergoes routine audits, and state and federal partners work continuously to provide for the most effective possible use of funds and ensure the Program's long-term sustainability.