In a victory for boaters and anglers, the passing of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act also includes re-authorization of the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund through the year 2020. After significant lobbying by Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) along with other boating and angling organizations, in 1984 Congress passed legislation establishing what was then called the Wallop/Breaux Trust Fund. Now called the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, it continues to serve as the backbone of boating safety, infrastructure, clean water and fisheries conservation funding in the United States.
The practical “user pay, everyone benefits” program uses federal boat fuel and fishing tackle taxes to protect natural aquatic resources, enhance boating safety and provide more recreational fishing and boating opportunities. Since its inception, more than $7.5 billion has been collected and allocated to the states. More recently since 2004, over 3.8 billion fish have been stocked, 11,000+ boat ramps and access sites have been created or renovated and over 1,100+ transient boating facilities built, 4.7 million students taught aquatic education, over 63,000 acres of fish habitat protected, and over half a million boaters, sailors and anglers have completed an approved state boating safety education course.
BoatUS, as a longtime champion of the Trust Fund along with other members of the Angling and Boating Alliance (ABA), has worked tirelessly to make certain it continues to be used for key boating and fishing programs. Said BoatUS President Margaret Podlich, “Some in Washington might have viewed these boater and angler tax dollars as a way to solve their own budget problems. BoatUS along with the ABA made certain this reauthorization ensures that the money boaters and anglers pay stays intact for the intended use: saving lives, keeping our fish stocks healthy and making it easier to enjoy the water.”
Podlich went on to state, “We appreciate the leadership of the multiple House and Senate Committees that included the Trust Fund in the FAST Act. Congressman Bill Shuster, Senator James Inhofe, Congressman Peter DeFazio, Senator Barbara Boxer, Senator John Thune and Senator Bill Nelson are all to be commended for their continuing support of America’s boaters and anglers.”