On September 14, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released its recommendations for budget cuts that include withholding parts of the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, a move that would have a significant effect on fisheries conservation and the jobs it supports. OMB’s action was triggered by the failure of the Congress and the Administration to enact a plan to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion, as required by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
“The angling and boating community was shocked to learn that for the first time in its 62-year history, the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund – the backbone of fisheries conservation in the United States – is recommended for a cut under sequestration totaling $34 million,” said Gordon Robertson, vice president of the American Sportfishing Association.
Robertson further said, “This conservation trust fund, established in 1950 with the support of industry, anglers and state conservation agencies, is an outstanding example of what good government should be and is the backbone of the user-pay model of funding conservation in this nation. It is important that it remain untouched. The sportfishing and boating communities are ready to work with Congress and the Administration to solve this problem.”
The Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1950 placed a federal excise tax on all recreational fishing equipment, which manufacturers pay and is then incorporated into the cost of the equipment that anglers purchase. In 1984 the Act was amended to include that part of the federal gasoline fuel tax attributable to motor boat use. The total annual value of the Trust Fund is approximately $650 million. The monies from the fund are apportioned to state conservation agencies for sport fish restoration, boating safety, angler and boater access and other fishing and boating programs.
“When anglers and boaters pay the equipment tax or the fuel tax they are doing so with the understanding that this money is going to a trust fund dedicated – by law – to the resources they enjoy,” said Robertson. “Withholding funds from this essential program at a time when state fishery programs are already struggling to ensure the best quality service to anglers and resource management will only cause fishery resources to suffer even more and cause job losses associated with the loss of recreation fishing boating programs. The sportfishing and boating industries as well as anglers and boaters themselves fail to understand how cutting a user-pay trust fund helps the economy.”
Recreational fishing contributes $125 billion each year to the nation’s economy and supports more than one million jobs. Since its inception, the Sport Fish Restoration Act has pumped $7 billion into habitat restoration, access and boating safety programs.
The Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund’s older sibling, the Wildlife Restoration Act of 1936, after which the Sportfish Trust Fund was patterned, is slated for a $31 million freeze. That Act is funded by hunters and men and women who engage in the shooting sports and archery, who pay a similar tax to support wildlife restoration. “This level of cuts to conservation programs that pay their own way is unprecedented and all anglers, hunters and shooting sports enthusiasts must speak up to prevent these cuts,” Robertson concluded.
Along with these two cornerstone conservation acts, many other critical conservation funds are also listed for significant cuts. Congress, with the cooperation of the Administration, must address the sequestration schedule and they will not occur until after the elections and possibly not until early 2013 and with a new Congress.
“We encourage all anglers to go to www.KeepAmericaFishing.org for information about when Congress may act and when anglers should speak up to maintain critical conservation funding,” Robertson said.