B.A.S.S. was among several outdoor organizations that petitioned Washington to exempt Sport Fish Restoration funds from sequestration. Below is the letter as sent to Senate and House leaders last week, in its entirety.
March 13, 2013
The undersigned organizations, representing millions of hunters, anglers, scientists, and conservationists, write to request your assistance in exempting the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Safety Trust Funds from the Budget Sequestration Act of 2011 (P.L. 112â155). It is urgent that you take action now to protect our precious fish and wildlife resources, public safety and 75-year trust with the nation’s hunters, recreational shooters, anglers and boaters who are the primary funders of conservation that benefits all Americans.
In previous budget-balancing actions, money going into the Trust Funds has been exempt from sequestration [Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act (BBEDCA) of 1985. P.L. 99-177, Section 255, 11, (g)]. The 1985 Act specifically listed the programs and activities that were exempt from sequestration and specifically provided that “payments to trust funds from excise taxes or other receipts properly creditable to such trust funds” were to be “exempt from reduction.” However, payments from such trust funds do not appear to be exempt. Because of the omission of the word “from,” federal solicitors have determined that the trust Wildlife Restoration and Sport Fish Restoration accounts are, in fact, subject to a withholding of 5.1% or an estimated $27 million and $19 million, respectively, in 2013. Boating Safety is scheduled to withhold another estimated $6 million. This is based on the latest figures released by the White House on February 24, 2013.
The financial impact of losing 5.1 percent of the Trust Funds in 2013, or $52 million in one year, is certainly not insignificant to the state fish and wildlife agencies’ and boating administrators’ programs, operations and constituents. However, the greater violation is the breach in trust between sportsmen and women and industries who pay the money and the federal government that will withhold the funds from states for their intended purpose. The Trust Funds are the lifeblood of these agencies’ day-to-day operating budgets. State agencies use their Trust Fund apportionments exclusively to restore and manage fisheries and wildlife and their habitats; open and maintain recreational access for all (including shooting ranges); deliver hunter and boating safety education; and provide public safety and law enforcement.
The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Safety 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 motorboat fuel that are paid upfront by manufacturers, producers and importers of taxable equipment, and in turn passed on as part of the retail price to sportsmen and women. The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration laws require states to provide a 25% non-federal, state-funded match to receive the 75% allocated from their Trust Funds. The Trust Funds are then apportioned to state fish and wildlife agencies and boating safety agencies for fish, wildlife and habitat restoration, conservation, and preservation; public access for boating, hunting, and fishing; hunter and boater education as well as boating safety and law enforcement.
According to data from the latest national survey, wildlifeârelated recreation was a $145 billion economic driver enjoyed by 90 million people — 38% of the U.S. population age 16 and older — in 2011. In 2011, 50 million Americans age six and older went boating, which equated to more than 700 million outings on our nation’s waterways. In addition, recent studies show that 15% of the U.S. population, representing 34.4 million people, go target shooting annually. 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.
Although our nation has gone through significant economic downturns, sportsmen and women and boaters have always been willing to pay a little extra for taxable items, knowing that their purchases would directly support conservation along with hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, boating and other wildlifeârelated activities. This user pays-public benefit model has, in various forms, been successful for 75 years because of the stability of these Trust Funds and their protection from diversion for any use other than what was originally intended.
Please help to preserve the time-honored commitment of these funds and keep the trust with America’s sportsmen and women by ensuring that the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Trust Funds as well as the Boating Safety Trust Funds are exempted from the Budget Sequestration Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-155). Amend 2 U.S.C. § 905, Exempt programs and activities, “so as to include appropriations from such trust funds in addition to payments to such funds.”