OUT: Colorado due to receive more than $7.5M from Fish and Wildlife Service

ANGLERS ENJOY MORE PUBLIC ACCESS and better fishing opportunities thanks to funds received by the Colorado Division of Wildlife through the federal Sportfish Restoration Act and the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act.

Colorado sportsmen, anglers and shooters soon will see some real benefits from paying taxes when the state gets its annual share of allocations from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The funds are money returned to the individual states from two federal excise taxes on sportfishing equipment and archery, guns and ammunition sales.

A total of $740 million is being divided among the states, and Colorado will receive $1.27 million from the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act and $6.36 million from the Dingell-Johnson Sportfish Restoration Act.

The money goes to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, which in the past has used the funds for such things as wildlife and fisheries research, purchasing lands, developing fish hatcheries and boating access and fishing and hunting education programs.

Funds are shared among the states according to a formula that takes into account such things as total land and water area, number of license holders and the amount of excise tax collected.

Both of these programs are held up as successful examples of “user fee” programs, because those who use the resource are the ones who pay.

Sportsmen continue to support these self-imposed taxes, though there has been in recent years a push to get more users, particularly non-license buyers, to pay a share.

The Federal Aid in Sportfish Restoration Act was introduced by Rep. John Dingell Sr. of Michigan and Sen. Edwin Johnson of Colorado and signed into law in 1950 by President Harry Truman.

Prior to receiving any Dingell-Johnson money, states must have an approved list of projects. Money from the act can be used to fund up to 75 percent of each project; the states must provide the other 25 percent.

This three-for-one leveraging has helped many states provide service and facilities not otherwise available.

In 1984, the Dingell-Johnson Act was amended by former Wyoming Sen. Malcolm Wallop and Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana to increase the fishing tackle items subject to the federal excise tax.

The amendment, known today as the Wallop-Breaux Act, also added a portion of the federal excise tax on motorboat fuels and the import duties on imported fishing tackle and boats and made available to the states any interest earned on the money.

“The Wallop-Breaux program remains the cornerstone of our Congressional efforts to restore and maintain healthy fisheries nationwide,” Breaux told The Missouri Conservationist magazine. “Today, our citizens across the country enjoy improved recreational fishing and boating access at lakes, ponds, rivers, streams and the ocean. I am proud to be a continuing part of this essential and worthwhile program.”

Historically, the Division of Wildlife has targeted the money for research, managing public waters, aquatic education; boating access development and hatchery development.

The Wildlife Restoration Program Act, also known as the Pittman-Robertson Act, was sponsored by Nevada Sen. Key Pittman of Nevada and Virginia Rep. A. Willis Robertson and
in 1937 was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Initially the bill imposed a 10 percent tax on sporting arms and ammunition, but that later was bumped to 11 percent. Because the program was so successful, legislation proposed to repeal the tax was defeated by sportsmen.

“The funds raised under the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs have helped conserve our fish and wildlife resources and provide opportunities for outdoor recreation for more than half a century,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “These investments, which help create jobs while protecting our nation’s natural treasures, are particularly important in these tough economic times.”

According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, more than 62 percent of Wildlife Restoration funds are used to buy, develop, maintain, and operate wildlife management areas.

Since the program began, wildlife agencies have acquired 68 million acres and operated and maintained more than 390 million acres for hunting.

In addition, agencies certified over 9 million participants in hunter education.

“This source of conservation funding is important not only measured by its dollar amount, but also by legislative safeguards preventing its diversion away from state fish and wildlife agencies,” said Rowan Gould, acting Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “For states working to ensure a future for fish and wildlife — and opportunities for people to enjoy them — precious few programs offer this level of support and reliability.”


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