Conservation of wildlife resources and your outdoor recreation heritage is at risk!
“The Greatest Story Never Told” is the mantra being extolled by the nation’s wildlife conservation community in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Fund (WSFR). Farsighted and forward-looking sportsmen worked with Congress in 1937 to pass the Pittman-Robertson Act, whereby excise taxes on hunting equipment flow into a trust fund that is one of the most significant sources of funding for state wildlife conservation efforts. Subsequent amendments of the act and passage of the Dingell-Johnson Act and the Wallop-Breaux Act have since added excise taxes from fishing equipment, archery tackle and motorboat fuel to grow the funding available for wildlife conservation. By law, your dollars are allocated to each state to support important conservation work on the ground and to keep critical wildlife programs going. Since 1939, the State of Arizona has integrated these funds, along with dedication of license-based revenues, into the core of our financing for wildlife conservation. With these resources, the state has been able to restore elk and bighorn sheep populations, construct and operate boat ramps and shooting ranges, restore native trout species, develop a modern hatchery program and continue conservation of our wildlife heritage.
Your funds have been untouched in the 75 year history of the WSFR fund and have been used only for conservation. In order to participate in the program and receive these funds, each state and territory made legal, binding commitments that these funds (and license fees) would be used only for wildlife conservation in specific, approved programs. Ironically, the current administration’s Office of Management and Budget has decided that your funds must be withheld (sequestered) under provisions of the Budget Control Act of 2012. While this action only keeps funds from being allocated to state wildlife agencies (for now) and does not in and of itself divert your funds, it does set the stage for future Congressional action which could sweep these funds from the trust accounts into the federal treasury. The fact that this diversion is occurring during the 75th anniversary of the WSFR Act is the ultimate irony. Federal agencies charged with the fiduciary protection of this trust fund are now the architects of the only authorized diversion in the fund’s history.
Because of explicit language in the original acts, these funds are to be allocated to the states and are not subject to annual Congressional appropriation. It is difficult to understand how these funds are now subject to the provisions of the Budget Control Act of 2012. Excise taxes would still be collected from manufacturers of hunting and fishing equipment and excise taxes would be paid by hunters, anglers, archers, boaters and shooters. Interest will still accrue in the various accounts. However, the new action of the Budget Control Act automatically denies the full allocation of funds to each state for their intended purpose of fish and wildlife conservation. This should be a critical concern to all sportsmen and conservationists. Under the Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service, every state would see funding reductions in administration, multi-state grants, boating safety, wildlife and sport fish restoration (WSFR) that will directly affect the department’s ability to do on-the-ground conservation, permanent agency jobs, agency resources and agencies’ ability to provide public access for hunting, fishing, boating and shooting. Conservation of wildlife resources and your outdoor recreation heritage is at risk, no matter what your choice of hobby, sport or pursuit. For Arizona, the impact for 2013 could be as much as $3 million with cuts to Wildlife Restoration, Sport Fish Restoration, Boating Safety and other programs.
State wildlife agencies have been working diligently with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Department of Interior to exempt State Trust Funds from being sequestered, but to no avail. Remember, these are your dollars as a sportsman or as a manufacturer of hunting and fishing equipment. If you are an Arizona citizen, your dollars support wildlife-related recreation that is a $2 billion economic driver annually; more than golf, more than professional sports. The federal administration needs to know how the sequestration of these funds and the impacts on your programs here in Arizona will affect you personally (contacts listed below). You may also want to contact your Congressional Representatives on this issue.
DOI Secretary Ken Salazar
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240
Phone: (202) 208-3100
USFWS Director Dan Ashe
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240
White House – Council on Environmental Quality
Council on Environmental Quality
722 Jackson Place, N.W.
Washington, DC 20503
Phone: (202) 395-5750