Congress looking to extend fishing and boating trust fund

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—Impeachment, the Middle East, China and the 2020 election might be stealing all the headlines right now but anglers and boaters should be paying close attention to a federal bill proposing to extend funding for fishing conservation and boating infrastructure through 2024. The Sport Fish Restoration and Recreational Boating Safety Act of 2019 was recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and immediately received an infusion of support by several fishing and outdoors groups.

The Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund is set to expire in 2021, unless the House bill is approved and signed into law.

Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-South Carolina, was one of two representatives to introduce the Sport Fish Restoration and Recreational Boating Safety Act of 2019. He stated the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund funds fishing conservation and management, water and boating infrastructure, and federal and state programs for recreational boating safety.

The second lead sponsor of the bill, which would extend the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund to 2024, is Rep. Garret Graves, R-Louisiana.

The trust fund traces its roots to the Dingell-Johnson Act, which was enacted in 1950. Dingell-Johnson is responsible for creating a federal excise tax on recreational fishing equipment.

“Reauthorizations throughout the years have adjusted the SFRBTF to better meet conservation needs, but it has continually provided federal funding for conservation,” a statement released by the American Sportfishing Association said. “These federal funds, along with state fishing licensing fees paid by anglers and private donations from angling organizations, has added up to more than $38 billion in conservation funding since 1951 which underscores the large impact anglers have on conservation.”

States receive funding from the Sport Fish Restoration Program based upon an apportionment formula. The program receives 57 percent of funds remaining in the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund. Annual deductions account for the other 43 percent of the fund.

The amount each state receives is split up between land area (40 percent) and the number of paid licensed anglers, in proportion to the national total (60 percent).

Each state ultimately receives between one and five percent of the total amount available in the fund. Puerto Rico receives a one percent cut, while Washington, D.C., Guam, Virgin Islands, American Samoa and Northern Mariana Islands each receive 0.33 percent.

Six categories make up the trust fund’s revenues: three percent tax on electric motors; 10 percent tax on fishing equipment; import duties on yachts and pleasure boats; motorboat fuel tax; small engine fuel tax; and, interest earned on the trust fund.

Initial deductions from the trust fund are allocated to a multistate conservation grant program ($3 million), fisheries commissions ($800,000), Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council ($400,000), and Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration administration.

The remaining funds are distributed as follows:

  • 57 percent, Sport Fish Restoration Program
  • 5 percent, Coastal Wetlands Act
  • 5 percent, Recreational Boating Safety Act
  • 2 percent, Boating Infrastructure Grant Program
  • 2 percent, National Outreach and Communications Program
  • 2 percent, Clean Vessel Act.

The Interior Department allocated more than $370 million to states and territories in 2019; California received $17.6 million under the apportionment, which was third highest in the country. Only Alaska ($18.5 million) and Texas ($18.5 million) received more funding than California.

Funding for aquatic resource education and boating access are both included within the Sport Fish Restoration Program.

 

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