Nearly $900,000 worth of contributions made by Nevada’s hunters, recreational shooters, archers, anglers and boaters specifically to conserve fish and wildlife, open access and provide hunter and boating safety education will be withheld from the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) by the federal government in 2013 if Congress fails to pass a budget before the end of the year.
Congress passed the Budget Control Act in 2011 and mandated automatic federal spending cuts, known as sequestration, to reduce the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. Unless a spending plan is enacted, those cuts will trigger on January 2, 2013 and will impact nearly all taxpayer-funded federal government agencies and programs.
The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration (WSFR) Programs and the Boating Safety Trust Fund would get a 7.6 percent cut and equate to a loss of approximately $74 million to all state fish and wildlife agencies in 2013. However, unlike other programs at risk of sequestration, WSFR Programs and the Boating Safety Trust Fund—collectively called the “Trust Funds”—are not taxpayer dollars derived through federal income taxes.
The Trust Funds are raised through excise taxes levied on archery equipment; guns and ammunition; fishing tackle and equipment; and motorboat fuel that industry pays quarterly to the federal government. Sportsmen and women buy the excise-taxable items and those revenues, combined with their purchases of hunting, fishing and boat licenses, determine how much funding is allocated to each state agency annually.
“The financial impact of losing 7.6 percent of Nevada’s portion of the Trust Funds in 2013, or nearly $900,000, is certainly not a small number,” said NDOW Deputy Director Patrick Cates. “However, I think the greater violation is the breach in trust between sportsmen and women and industries who pay the money and the federal government that could withhold the funds from states for their intended purpose.”
State Boating Law Administrators also will experience a 7.6 percent cut to their federal allocation, which will reduce funding available for boating safety activities, boating education, access and boat registration and titling. Currently, there is no consistent substitute funding mechanism to offset the loss of the WSFR or Boating Safety Trust Funds that are intended for state, not federal use.
“The Trust Funds are the lifeblood of the Nevada Department of Wildlife’s day-to-day budget to restore and manage fisheries and wildlife and their habitats; open and maintain recreational access for all; and keep the public safe by providing hunter and boating safety education,” said NDOW Director Ken Mayer. “If budget sequestration takes effect, NDOW is going to have to start making some tough decisions now and down the road, and potentially, we may have to reduce services, fish stocking programs and other types of wildlife management programs that Nevada’s sportsmen and women care about deeply. ”
The Wildlife Restoration and Sport Fish Restoration Programs were established in 1937 and 1950 respectively to restore wildlife and fish populations; the Boating Safety Trust Fund followed in 1984. Since then, more than $14 billion dollars have been entrusted to state agencies as the recipients of the nation’s users-pay, public-benefits funding system for fish and wildlife conservation.
“Over the last 75 years, sportsmen and women have always been willing to pay a little extra for the excise-taxable gear, knowing that their purchases would directly support conservation along with hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, boating and other wildlife-related activities,” added Mayer. “Sequestering the Trust Funds will not reduce the federal deficit, and in fact, could hurt the country’s finances by curbing the $145-billion dollar economic driver that is wildlife-related recreation, enjoyed by 90 million people each year.”
In 1985, Congress passed the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act which provided that the excise tax revenues going into the Trust Funds were exempt from budget sequestrations; but, it did not specify that the money distributed from the Trust Funds account to state fish and wildlife agencies was exempt from sequestration withholding.
Members of Congress can close this gap by amending the "Exemption" provision found in the 1985 Act to include appropriations from such trust funds. This act of Congress would be the most long-lasting solution.
For more information about the potential effects of budget sequestration on fish and wildlife conservation, public safety and the economy, go to www.fishwildlife.org.
To ask your Members of Congress to exempt the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs and Boating Safety Trust Fund and keep the trust with America’s sportsmen and women, contact the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 or visit www.senate.gov or www.house.gov to view and contact your Senators and Representatives.