The Cycle of Success: Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program
The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program (WSFR) is one of this nation’s most successful conservation programs
Early conservationists, many of them avid hunters and anglers, saw the rapid decline and plight of many species in the late 1800s through the early 1900s due to unregulated market hunting and habitat loss.
Through the efforts of leaders like President Theodore Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold, John Muir, and the establishment of sportsmen’s organizations, they helped pave the way for today’s system of science-based, regulated wildlife management (of which hunting and fishing plays an important role) to ensure sustainable wildlife resources for future generations.
Recognizing the need for funding support for professional wildlife management, some visionaries helped establish a unique partnership between sportsmen/women, industry, and federal and state agencies to establish dedicated funding sources for wildlife and fisheries conservation. This funding comes from federal excise taxes on certain equipment (such as firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, fishing gear and boat fuel) purchased by hunters, anglers, shooters and boaters.
The funding is distributed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to state wildlife agencies through the Wildlife Restoration Program and Sport Fish Restoration Program on a match basis. When combined with the states’ sales of hunting and fishing licenses, this cumulative funding provides the bulk of support for on-the-ground projects that benefit fish and wildlife conservation and provide hunting, angling, shooting, boating and related wildlife recreation opportunities for the public.
“User-Pay, User-Benefit” Federal Aid Programs through Excise Taxes
The Wildlife Restoration Program was created through the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 (Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act).
Through a federal excise tax paid by manufacturers on firearms, ammunition and archery equipment, it provides grant funds for wildlife and habitat conservation projects, projects to provide public use and access to wildlife resources, hunter education, and development and management of shooting ranges.
The Sport Fish Restoration Program was created through the Dingell-Johnson Act of 1950 (Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act) and the Wallop-Breaux amendments of 1984.
Through a federal excise tax paid by manufacturers on fishing gear and motorboat fuels, it provides grant funds for fishery conservation, boating access, and aquatic education.
It was sportsmen then, and sportmen today, who provide the primary funding source for wildlife and sport fish conservation in the United States, and right here in Arizona.
So remember, when you purchase of firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, fishing gear and motorboat fuels, along with your purchase of hunting and fishing licenses, you are part of this cycle of success.
The Wildlife Restoration Program and the Sport Fish Restoration Program are two of the most successful conservation programs in our nation’s history. They reflect a farsighted partnership between the federal government, state agencies, private industries, and hunters, anglers, shooters and boaters.
A Cycle of Success
The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration programs are based on a “user pay, user benefit” principle that can be thought of as a “cycle of success”. The cycle of success starts with the manufacturers and the federal excise taxes that are paid on the items mentioned above.
After the taxes are collected, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awards the grant funds out to its state partners to fund their fish and wildlife conservation efforts, hunter and aquatic education programs, shooting range programs, and to provide boating access opportunities to the public. In turn, the state’s efforts result in more and better opportunities for hunters, anglers, shooters and boaters to enjoy the resource and ultimately purchase products that start the cycle all over again.
How are the Funds Used?
- Among the projects and activities made possible by this immensely successful state/federal/industry partnership include:
- Management and conservation of fish and wildlife
- Habitat restoration
- Land acquisition or conservation easements for hunting, fishing and boating access
- Construction and development of shooting ranges
- Boating access facilities
- Hunter education
- Aquatic education
- Fish hatchery operations and maintenance
- Wildlife management area operations and maintenance
The grant programs cumulatively are now approaching about $800 million nationally each year in funds that are awarded out to state agencies by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to support the states’ fish and wildlife conservation, shooting range and recreational boating programs.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department manages all wildlife in Arizona but does not receive any of the state’s general tax revenues to operate. Agency funding comes primarily from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, federal assistance from excise taxes through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration programs described above, and a few other important sources such as the Heritage Fund (from a portion of Arizona lottery ticket sales) and the Wildlife Conservation Fund (from a portion of tribal gaming revenues).