Earlier today, with active support and engagement from the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation passed the Sport Fish Restoration and Recreational Boating Safety Act of 2021 (S. 1995)– a critical bill that will sustain the most significant funding for state-based fisheries conservation– with overwhelming bipartisan support. This legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate on June 9 by Senator Maria Cantwell (WA) and Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) member Senator Roger Wicker (MS).
As a leading member of the Angling and Boating Alliance (ABA), which consists of the top recreational fishing and boating organizations who work to advance reauthorization of the Sport Fish Restoration and Recreational Boating Trust (Trust Fund), the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation has played a pivotal role in securing continuation of the Fund for decades, including a successful effort in 2005 to ensure that the entirety of excise taxes paid by anglers and boaters is directed to the Trust Fund, ultimately generating approximately $110 million in additional fisheries conservation funding each year. The passage of this bill out of Committee maintains CSF’s position as a leader in conservation policy while working in close partnership with the CSC.
In addition to securing passage of the bill in today’s Senate Commerce Committee markup, CSF worked to safeguard the Trust Fund by ensuring that funding intended to increase access for recreational fishing and boating is not required to go through a burdensome approval process.
The Trust Fund is currently funded entirely by federal excise taxes on fishing equipment including tackle, motorboat and small engine fuel, electric motors, and other equipment purchased by anglers and boaters. The bipartisan bill will reauthorize the Trust Fund and ensure more than $650 million is provided annually to fund state-based programs for sport fish conservation and habitat restoration, infrastructure for boating access, and on-the-ground, state-driven fisheries conservation programs.
This cornerstone legislation will reauthorize the “user pays – public benefits” Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund through 2025 to facilitate aquatic habitat improvements, fishing and boating access, and boating safety programs. Additionally, it will provide for well-managed fisheries for the American public and secure a bright future for the $23.6 billion fishing and boating industry while ultimately improving the efficiency of the Sport Fish Restoration program. Last year alone, nearly $743 million was generated by the Trust Fund from fishing and boating-related excise taxes.
“We commend the Commerce Committee for passing this critical legislation that will secure the future of our fisheries,” said CSF President and CEO Jeff Crane. “Ensuring robust funding for fisheries conservation and boating access is a top priority for CSF, and we look forward to working with members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus to continue this momentum and reauthorize the program on behalf of our nation’s anglers and boaters.”
CSF also worked closely with CSC Co-Chair Rep. Debbie Dingell (MI) and CSC Member Rep. Garret Graves (LA), among others, to introduce the House companion of this bill, known as the Sport Fish Restoration, Recreational Boating Safety, and Wildlife Restoration Act of 2021. CSF remains at the forefront to continue moving both the House and Senate bills forward.
About the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund
A foundational component of the American System of Conservation Funding, the Sport Fish Restoration Fund was established in 1950. At its inception, it used a 10 percent federal manufacturers’ excise tax on certain fishing equipment to fund projects designed to enhance sportfishing in all 50 states. The Recreational Boating Safety Program was established in 1971 to fund boating safety and education programs and amended in 1980 to draw its funding from taxes on motorboat fuels. These programs were combined in 1984 under the Wallop-Breaux amendment to the Act.
The Wallop-Breaux Act expanded the list of taxable items to nearly all sportfishing products and captured the federal motorboat fuel taxes that were paid by boaters and anglers. This combination substantially increased the funds collected by the federal government to be returned to the states for fishing and boating-related projects.
In 2005, the Wallop-Breaux Act was reauthorized, and the fund was renamed the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund (SFRBTF).