Monday, January 30th, 2023
Monday, January 30th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Groups seek increase in sportfishing funding

Associate Editor

Washington Conservation groups, including the Congressional
Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), are working to regain full funding
through the Wallop-Breaux Sportfish Restoration Act. If successful,
it could mean an extra $3.5 million for fish and fishing-related
projects in Wisconsin, according to Jeff Crane, policy director for
the CSF.

If not, more than $100 million in funding that should be
supporting state fisheries programs will continue to be spent as
federal general revenue, Crane said.

For Fiscal Year 2003, Wisconsin received about $8.6 million from
the federal government through the Dingell-Johnson/Wallop-Breaux
(W-B) Sportfish Restoration Act, according to Dennis Schenborn, of
the DNR’s budget and planning section for the Bureau of Fisheries
Management and Habitat Protection.

In 2004, the amount was about the same. Two years ago, the state
received about $9.5 million. Schenborn said the amount “bounces
around” based on items such as state fishing license sales and
gasoline sales.

The W-B portion provides funding through a tax of 18.3 cents per
gallon of gasoline for outboard motors and small engines. However,
just 13.5 cents per gallon is reaching the Aquatic Resources Trust
Fund, according to the CSF, shortchanging sportsmen nationwide
about $110 million, Crane said. According to the American
Sportfishing Association, “Several years ago, Congress voted to
funnel a portion of these revenues to the U.S. Treasury General
Fund to cover federal budget shortfalls.”

In March, U.S. Sens. Trent Lott, of Mississippi and John Breaux,
of Louisiana, introduced legislation to “safeguard anglers’ and
boaters’ investments in fishing and boating access and quality by
recovering the full amount of excise taxes they contribute under
the Sport Fish Restoration Act,” according to the ASA.

Said author Breaux: “We should be dedicating 100 percent of this
Aquatic Resources Trust Fund to all valuable boating and fishing
programs that benefit from the Wallop-Breaux legislation, ranging
from boat safety programs to coastal wetland restoration.
Wallop-Breaux was specifically designed so users pay for these
programs through the taxes they pay, and this legislation will
rightfully return those funds to help everyone who enjoys fishing
and boating in Louisiana and nationwide.”

In Wisconsin, Schenborn said, the federal funding mixes with
state funding for such purposes as boat accesses, the state fish
hatchery program, and surveys of fish populations and habitat.

In order to obtain W-B funding, states fund projects, then
submit requests for reimbursement to the federal government, which
pays 75 cents for each dollar of qualified projects. This year, a
presidential election may have forced a delay in reauthorizing
Wallop-Breaux, and could potentially nix the effort to restore full
funding to the act, Crane said. He said the House and Senate have
different language in reauthorizing highway bills, through which
the W-B Act is addressed. But in late September Congress voted for
an extension, giving them until May of 2005 to complete the
bill.

“The prevailing thought is (the transportation bill) is dead
this year,” Crane said last week.

He and other conservation leaders worry that when the bill is
taken up again, restoration of the funding as well as other
conservation provisions could be changed by a Congress with new
members, or new ideas. Either way, he said, putting 4.8 cents of
W-B funding into the fed’s general fund “doesn’t make any
sense.”

In the meantime, Crane said the CSF was leading an effort to
restore W-B funding in a tax bill on which Congress was more likely
to act during this election year. According to the CSF, the
Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1950 created a
self-imposed 10 percent excise tax on sport fishing equipment such
as rods and reels, and baits and lures. The proceeds were to
improve fishing, fishing access, and fishing education. That act
was amended by the W-B in 1984, extending the tax to previously
untaxed items of sport fishing equipment and taking in the federal
tax on motorboat fuels.

An extension of W-B through a federal highway bill is for a
six-year period, Crane said. State shares of the federal aid are
based on a formula including the number of fishing licenses sold in
the state and the state’s geographic area.

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