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Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration

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How often do you see people or businesses wanting to be taxed and happy about it?

In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act. This Act has been key to implementing the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Since 1941, sport-fishing businesses have paid a federal excise that was deposited in the general treasury of the United States but did not directly benefit manufacturers or anglers. In 1950, sportsmen and businesses teamed with conservation-minded policy makers to redirect these existing federal excise taxes to the Sport Fish Restoration Program (aka: SFR, Dingell-Johnson or Wallop-Breaux). As of 2012, Federal Aid and the North American Model will have been working for 75 years.

The concept was to restore sportfish populations and improve public access, so more people can enjoy fishing and fishing sales would increase. SFR came about as a result of anglers wanting to see more money directed toward restoring the nation’s recreational fisheries, and to ensuring better fishing opportunities for themselves and future generations. It has been the best thing for anglers since fishing reels were invented.

Today, SFR uses a small excise tax on fishing reels and other fishing tackle, as well as a motor boat fuel tax, to fund sport fish restoration and boating access programs. It is working. There are now at least 77% more anglers than in 1950. Purchases of tax-related items by anglers have increased by nearly 200% in constant dollars since 1955.

Anglers and fishing businesses want to know the benefits they receive in return. To help answer this, Andrew Loftus Consulting and Southwick Associates analyzed data on excise taxes invested, fishing participation, and angler purchases of excise-tax related products for a 2011 report to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The report found that excise-tax related return-on-investment ranged from 1,585% in 1970 to 2,643% in 1980.

In Florida alone, SFR provided $13 million dollars in 2010, of which 15% ($2.0 million) went to boating access. Freshwater fisheries conservation received $5.5 million (the rest went to saltwater fisheries). In freshwater, the FWC uses this money to improve fisheries habitat, stock fish, conduct research and manage fish populations. We also conduct aquatic education programs and provide valuable fishing and conservation tips to anglers.

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