Both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have recently acted on legislation to reauthorize the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund (SFRBTF). The SFRBTF, which is funded in part by the federal excise tax on fishing equipment paid by the sportfishing industry, funds state-based programs for sportfish conservation and habitat restoration, infrastructure for boating access and education for anglers and boaters.
Yesterday, the Sport Fish Restoration and Recreational Boating Safety Act of 2020 was introduced in the U.S. Senate by leadership of the Senate Commerce Committee, Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.). This bill would reauthorize the SFRBTF through 2024 and make important administrative improvements to improve the efficiency of the program.
In addition, yesterday the House passed a massive infrastructure bill titled the “Moving Forward Act” (H.R. 2), which included the Sport Fish Restoration and Recreational Boating Safety Act. This legislation has been championed in the House by Reps. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.) and Garret Graves (R-La.), who introduced standalone legislation last year.
“The Sport Fish Restoration Program is one of the nation’s most important conservation programs, and we are grateful that Congress is taking action to ensure this successful program continues into the future,” said Mike Leonard, vice president, Government Affairs, for the American Sportfishing Association. “Since its inception in 1950, the Sport Fish Restoration program has provided billions of dollars to fund fisheries conservation and public access to aquatic resources, providing opportunities for the nation’s 50 million recreational fishermen to enjoy time on the water.”
This SFRBTF is funded through multiple sources of revenue including the federal excise tax on recreational fishing equipment, the boat fuel tax, and import duties. Each year about $650 million is provided from the SFRBTF to state wildlife agencies for fisheries management and restoration projects as well as boating infrastructure and other purposes.
The SFRBTF began in 1950 with the passage of the Dingell-Johnson Act which established a federal excise tax on recreational fishing equipment. These 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 enormous impact anglers have on conservation.