The Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund is the biggest single boost to boating infrastructure construction and maintenance, as well as critical funding for fisheries improvement and conservation. But if Congress doesn’t act favorably, it will disappear.
Legislation to reauthorize the fund for another five years is included in the bipartisan infrastructure bill that was passed by the Senate but is being held hostage in the political battles in the House. Sadly, these days Congress can’t get out of its own way to pass other important legislation, specifically the Sport Fish Restoration, Recreational Boating Safety and Wildlife Restoration Act of 2021.
How important is this to our industry, our customers and our future boaters? Since 1951, the SFRBTF has invested more than $38 billion in marine infrastructure and conservation projects, which has helped millions of boaters and anglers — our customers — enjoy time on the water.
Moreover, the fund is a model user-pay, user-benefit program. Its funds come from federal taxes on powerboat fuel, excise taxes on fishing equipment, and other boating and fishing fees. Each year the SFRBTF pours a whopping $650 million into state boating and wildlife agencies for infrastructure access, fisheries management, habitat restoration, coastal wetlands protection, and educational programs.
Just one example of the great programs funded by the SFRBTF is the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, which is providing the primary funding for the “Get On Board” campaign.
So what you can do today? Take a few minutes to tell your congressional representatives to support the reauthorization of the SFRBTF and pass the Sport Fish Restoration, Recreational Boating Safety and Wildlife Restoration Act.
Another example of the fund’s direct benefit to boating is the recent announcement that the non-profit Sea Tow Foundation will receive two new grants for the 2021-22 grant year. Administered through the Coast Guard, these funds come directly from the SFRBTF. Specifically, the money will be used to support the foundation’s Life Jacket Loaner Program and Sober Skipper Campaign, and create an electronic flare awareness and education program.
Grants from the SFRBTF aren’t free rides. For example, state boating and wildlife agencies that receive funds must provide matching or additional funding to any program.
The annual spending of the $650 million SFRBTF breaks down as such:
• 57 percent for Sport Fish Restoration programs
• 18 percent for provisions in the Recreational Boating Safety Act
• 18.5 percent for coastal wetlands developments
• 2 percent for the Boating Infrastructure Grant, which builds transient docks
• 2 percent for the Clean Vessel Act, which installs pumpout facilities
• 2 percent for the National Outreach and Communications Program
This is a no brainer. We must take action to ensure these outstanding programs that directly benefit our industry do not disappear. We must push passage of the Sport Fish Restoration, Recreational Boating Safety and Wildlife Restoration Act.
Please do your part, then ask your employees to do their part, too. Take action now!