Policy Options

State Wildlife Agency Funding



NCEL Point of Contact

Logan Christian
Wildlife and Habitat Coordinator



State wildlife agencies are the main entity tasked with responding to the biodiversity crisis at the state level, yet they are severely underfunded. Traditional sources of revenue - including hunting and fishing license sales and federal taxes on guns and ammunition - are no longer sufficient for covering the demands of modern wildlife management, from recovering threatened and endangered species to supporting wildlife-based recreation opportunities for all people. Many states are looking beyond traditional revenue sources, finding unique funding mechanisms to expand their wildlife agency’s ability to engage in important conservation work.

Funding Options

Funding Options:

  • General Fund Appropriations: A few states receive a consistent, annual appropriation from the state General Fund. In Vermont, these appropriations consistently cover around a quarter of the wildlife agencies’ budget, and Washington appropriated $23 million in 2023 for biodiversity and endangered species recovery. Louisiana approved a bill in 2022 establishing a competitive grant program for conservation projects, including wildlife conservation, with an initial appropriation of $10 million.
  • Outdoor Gear Tax: Texas, Virginia, and Georgia recently passed bills that reallocate a portion of their outdoor gear tax towards funds for wildlife conservation. All three states’ taxes encompass gear for non-hunting and fishing activities, such as hiking, camping, and water sports.
  • General Sales Tax: States that have created a new sales tax for wildlife conservation include Missouri, Arkansas, and Minnesota. Note that this option may not be possible in states with constitutional restrictions on creating new taxes.
  • Real Estate Transfer Tax: Most states levy a tax on the transfer of real estate and property between owners. Florida and South Carolina both use revenue from their real estate transfer tax to support wildlife conservation. 
  • Allocating Money From A Tax Increase: Iowa voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2010 that created a Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund to be funded with revenue from the next state sales tax increase. While the Fund has been created, the sales tax allocation has not yet been approved.
  • Trust Funds: Both Wyoming and New Mexico have established trust funds that fund wildlife conservation projects using accrued interest.
  • Bond Programs: Nevada has a $218 million bond program slated for acquiring wildlife habitat and enhancing outdoor recreation opportunities. West Virginia also authorizes counties to issue bonds for land acquisition for the benefit of wildlife habitat. 
  • Lottery Revenue: States with a dedicated lottery fund can use this revenue to support wildlife conservation. Examples include Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Oregon. In 2023, Minnesota increased the portion of lottery proceeds allocated to its Natural Resource Trust Fund from 40 to 50 percent.
  • Severance Tax: Many states have a severance tax on resource extraction, especially for fossil fuels and minerals. Several use some of the revenue to fund conservation efforts. For example, Colorado allows surplus from the state’s severance tax trust fund to be allocated to the species conservation trust fund. 
  • Cannabis Tax: Montana voters approved an initiative in 2020 to allocate a portion of the state sales tax on marijuana to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to the General Habitat Program and Nongame Fund.
  • State Parks Pass: Colorado established a funding stream for state parks and related recreation and wildlife programs in 2023 via state parks pass purchases, included by default with vehicle registration, generating $41 million in its first year.
  • Hunting & Fishing License Fees: States can update their hunting and fishing license fees to keep pace with inflation, while also prioritizing affordability for state residents. Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and New Mexico are three states that recently introduced legislation to increase license fees. 
  • Voluntary Programs: Also known as the “bake sale” approach, some states provide state residents with a variety of voluntary options for making donations to wildlife conservation. These include special license plates (Texas, Wyoming), income tax check-offs (Connecticut), charities and fundraisers (Georgia), or donation programs to support habitat (New Jersey).


NCEL Resources

Fact Sheet

State Wildlife Agency Authority and Mission Fulfillment Fact Sheet

September 14, 2023


Fish and Wildlife Conservation: Agency Relevance and Funding Presentation

November 12, 2019

Online Resources

State Fish & Wildlife Agencies - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Overview of the history/funding of state wildlife agencies.

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Mechanisms for State-Level Wildlife Funding - National Wildlife Federation

Mechanisms and case studies for state-level wildlife funding.

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Secure Wildlife Funding - National Wildlife Federation

A toolkit to help increase funding for state fish and wildlife agencies.

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