State Wildlife Management: An Overview

The components of state wildlife management vary in detail by state but share some broad similarities.


All the states have an agency responsible for wildlife management. Twenty three states have a standalone wildlife agency. Three states have a standalone wildlife and parks agency. Twenty four states have a wildlife agency that is part of a larger natural resources or environmental department.

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In almost every state, there is an appointed volunteer commission or board that either oversees or advises the wildlife agency. For oversight commissions, duties vary by state but include setting policy and budget for the agency, rule-making, and appointing the agency’s director.

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Funding for state wildlife agencies comes from four main sources: 1) license fees; 2) federal grants; 3) general funds; and 4) other sources. The relative contribution of these sources varies widely by state.

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Public Trust Doctrine: a better paradigm for wildlife conservation

The Public Trust Doctrine (PTD) offers an alternative framework to the status quo in wildlife management that more compatible with modern ecological and societal goals.  PTD is a legal doctrine with its roots in Roman and English common law. It holds that nature, including wildlife, is a public trust1 that the government has a “fiduciary” duty to protect for the benefit of the beneficiaries, including those not yet born.

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Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson at a glance

The federal government makes matching grants to states and territories for the restoration and management of birds, mammals and sport fish, and for wildlife-associated public recreation. States are required to pay a 25 percent match. The source of these grants are federal taxes levied on various types of items.

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The Decline of Hunting and Fishing

In recent decades the number of hunters and anglers in the U.S. has declined both in actual numbers and as a percentage of the total U.S. population, based on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service records of annual hunting and fishing license sales from all states (including U.S. territories and Washington, D.C.) and U.S. Census Bureau data.

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Recovering America’s Wildlife Act

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) has been knocking around Congress for a number of years in various versions. It would provide matching federal grants to the states for implementation of state wildlife action plans to conserve “species of greatest conservation need” (SGCN).

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