US Fish and Wildlife Tax Allocations Distributed

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Nevada anglers, hunters 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.

Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently announced more than $740 million will be distributed to the fish and wildlife agencies of the 50 states, commonwealths, the District of Columbia, and territories to fund fish and wildlife conservation, boater access to public waters, and hunter and aquatic education.

"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. These investments, which help create jobs while protecting our nation's natural treasures, are particularly important in these tough economic times," Salazar said. "All those who pay into this program -- the hunting and fishing industries, boaters, hunters, anglers, and recreational shooters -- should take pride in helping to conserve our land and its fish and wildlife and provide benefits to all Americans who cherish the natural world and outdoor recreation."

These Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program funds come from excise taxes and import duties on sporting firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, sportfishing equipment, electric outboard motors, and fuel taxes attributable to motorboats and small engines.

In 2009 Nevada will receive $5,911,481 in Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Funds and $5,941,215 in Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Funds. The money goes to the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW), which in the past has used the funds for wildlife and fisheries research, wildlife restoration, purchasing lands, developing fish hatcheries and boating access, and fishing and hunting education programs.

"Not only are the dollars allocated by these acts critical, but the legislative safeguards that deliver them prevent diversion of our sportsmen's and women's dollars to anything but programs for them," said Ken Mayer, Director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife. "Few programs offer this level of support and reliability to ensure a future for fish and wildlife," he continued.

Funds are shared among the states according to a formula that takes into account such things as total land and water area, number of fishing and hunting 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.

"The Nevada Department of Wildlife is proud to be supported almost exclusively by its users." Mayer said. "And we're not only improving our natural spaces for hunters, anglers and boaters…but for anyone who enjoys connecting with nature."

Sportsmen continue to support these self-imposed taxes, though there has been a push in recent years to get more users, particularly non-license buyers, to pay a share. In Nevada, 97% of the NDOW's funding is from federal grants, license and permit sales, gifts, and donations. Only 3% of NDOW's funding comes from the state general fund.

Among the uses of these funds in Nevada is preservation of land in Wildlife Management Areas. Nevada owns or has long-term leases on over 117,000 acres of land incorporated into Wildlife Management Areas across the state. Emphasis is on the protection of wetlands and waterfowl, and to preserve areas for hunting.

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 was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937.

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 Federal Aid in Sport Fish 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.

"Funding through the Wallop-Breaux program matched with revenue from fishing license sales is essential to maintain the quality fishing opportunities that our anglers expect in Nevada," said Pat Sollberger, NDOW Fisheries staff biologist. "Programs such as our popular urban pond fisheries, which support more than 75,000 angler use days state wide each year, simply would not exist without the Wallop-Breaux Act which provides direct support to our trout fish hatcheries and for management of these waters. Because Wallop-Breaux funds are generated by the sale of fishing tackle and related items, there are few better examples of a program where users, and the waters that support Nevada's fisheries, directly benefit from their generous actions."

For more information, visit www.ndow.org.