As if we needed another reminder that our federal government is broken, the Office of Management and Budget came up with this:
Cut $34 million from the Sport Fish Restoration (SFR) and Boating Trust Fund to help reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion, as required by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
Now, I’m one who believes that virtually every program, including those related to conservation and natural resources, should be on the table to help us get the massive federal debt under control.
But the problem with this recommendation is that the SFR fund is not financed by taxpayers, as are all those other federal expenditures. Anglers pay for this one themselves with excise taxes paid on fishing tackle and motorboat fuel.
To deny any of that money to the states for fisheries management, as it was intended, is theft.
“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 (ASA).
Established in 1950 with the support of industry, anglers, and state conservation agencies, SFR “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 essential that it remain untouched,” Robertson added.
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 adds $125 billion each year to the nation’s economy and supports more than one million jobs. Since its inception, SFR has pumped $7 billion into habitat restoration, access and boating safety programs.
SFR’s hunting counterpart, the Wildlife Restoration Act of 1936, is slated for a $31 million freeze. That program 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 this will not occur until after the elections and possibly not until early 2013 and with a new Congress.
Visit Keep America Fishing regularly to keep current about when Congress may act on the SFR recommendation and other fisheries programs and when you should speak up.
And keep this in mind: Many in Washington consider fisheries and conservation “easy marks” for budget cuts. Some don’t recognize their importance. Others believe that anglers simply are not a constituency to be feared or even respected, for that matter.
The only way that the latter will change is for us to show them otherwise.