Parimal M. Rohit
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal program funding conservation and boating safety programs once in jeopardy of expiring now has new life as the Sport Fish Restoration and Recreational Boating Safety Act was placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar on July 26.
Senate Bill 834 (S 834) would reauthorize the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund through the 2023 fiscal year. The Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation recommended the bill for adoption.
Conservation and boating safety programs backed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Coast Guard would continue to receive funding if the reauthorization is ultimately approved. Fish and Wildlife Service, for example, reportedly distributed $625 million in trust fund money during the 2015 fiscal year.
Congress historically authorized money from the trust fund to help pay for the monitoring of fisheries, habit conservation and restoration, angler and boat access, and educational programs promoting boater safety.
“Since 1950, the fund has been critical to marine and freshwater fisheries conservation, wetlands conservation and restoration, and since 1984, recreational boater safety programs in the United States,” a committee report on S 834 stated. “The Sport Fish Restoration and Recreational Boating Safety Act would reauthorize a user pays, public benefits program that collects user fees on fishing tackle and equipment, motorboat fuel, imported boats and fishing equipment and small engines.”
Recreational anglers spent an estimated $23.4 billion in 2011 and had an economic impact of about $56 billion, the National Marine Fisheries Service reported. Complementing the angling economy were recreational boaters, who registered more than 12 million pleasure vessels nationally in 2012.
“According to a study conducted by the National Marine Manufacturers Association and the Recreational Marine Research Center at Michigan State University in 2012, recreational boating related spending exceeded $51 billion, and overall, the total economic impact of recreational boating on the U.S. economy was $121.5 billion,” the senatorial committee reported.
The trust fund grants $200,000 annually to the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission and $400,000 annually to the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council; it also helps pay for California’s Fishing in the City Program.
S 834 was introduced by Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota) on March 23 and co-sponsored by Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Maryland), James M. Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) and Bill Nelson (D-Florida).
The bill is listed under General Orders, as item 162, of the Senate Legislative Calendar.
FishRap and The Log will report on the Senate’s final vote as soon as it occurs.