Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will distribute nearly $1.1 billion in excise tax revenues to state and territorial fish and wildlife agencies to fund conservation through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program.
The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Trust Funds are not taxpayer dollars derived through federal income taxes. These funds are raised through excise taxes levied on bows and arrows; guns and ammunition; fishing tackle and equipment; and electric outboard motors and motor boat fuels. The taxes are paid upfront by manufacturers, producers and importers of taxable equipment, and in turn, paid for by sportsmen and women.
The financial support from America’s hunting, shooting sports, fishing and boating community through their purchases of taxable gear and hunting and fishing licenses is the lifeblood for funding fish and wildlife conservation, comprising approximately 80% of a state fish and wildlife agency’s annual budget.
According to DOI, the total distributions to state agencies this year are $238.4 million higher than last year because of the inclusion of funds that were not distributed in 2013 because of the government sequester, as well as an increase in excise tax receipts from sales of firearms and ammunition in the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund.
The Wildlife Restoration Program apportionment for 2014 is a record $760.9 million. The Sport Fish Restoration Program apportionment for 2014 is $325.7 million, which is lower than last year’s due to lower domestic fishing equipment excise tax receipts.
State agencies use Wildlife Restoration Trust Funds to reintroduce declining species; survey wildlife populations; conduct species research; provide hunter education; acquire wildlife habitat; and develop public shooting ranges.
State agencies depend on Sport Fish Restoration Trust Funds to fund fish research; reintroduce declining sport fish species; restore aquatic habitat such as coastal wetlands; offer aquatic education; construct boat ramps and fishing piers; and provide boating access.
All told, the Trust Funds benefit every American by providing cleaner and healthier environments, public safety education and access for outdoor recreation.
According to data from the latest national survey, wildlife-related recreation was a $145-billion dollar economic driver enjoyed by 90 million people—38% of the U.S. population age 16 and older—in 2011. This level of outdoor activity and Americans’ spending on taxable gear and trip-related expenses supports thousands of jobs in industries and businesses connected to fishing, hunting, recreational shooting, boating and the observance of wildlife, especially in rural communities.
> Read DOI's press release and view astate-by-state table of FY 2014 Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Fund apportionments