Wildlife and Sport Fish Recreation program celebrates 75 years
by Nathan Ham
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, along with other state fish and wildlife agencies, joined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this year in celebrating the 75thanniversary of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR), one of the most successful and enduring conservation partnerships ever undertaken.
The “WSFR 75 – It’s Your Nature” celebration marked the 75thanniversary of the passage of the Wildlife Restoration Act, also known as the Pittman-Robertson Act, which authorized an 11 percent federal excise tax on sporting arms, ammunition and archery equipment, and a 10 percent tax on handguns. The Department of Treasury collects the excise taxes, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dispenses money among state fish and wildlife agencies to fund projects that improve hunter access and hunting opportunities.
A similar funding mechanism to increase fishing and boating opportunities was created in 1950 with the passage of the Sport Fish Restoration Act, also known as the Dingell-Johnson Act, which authorized a 10 percent excise tax on fishing equipment. The Wallop-Breaux amendment of 1984 added additional funds through federal gasoline excise taxes, attributable to motorboats by a formula based on boat registrations. The amendment mandated a minimum amount that must be spent on boating access.
Together, these legislative acts make up the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR). Over the last 75 years, WSFR has provided more than $12 billion for fish and wildlife projects and programs, supplied jobs for thousands of Americans and benefited state and local economies through boating, fishing, hunting and shooting activities.
Visitors to the Commission’s State Fair exhibit this month can learn more about a few of the projects and programs funded through WSFR monies that have benefited wildlife in North Carolina. The State Fair, which is located at 1025 Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh,will run from Oct. 11-21.
Excise Taxes at Work
WSFR is an outstanding example of a“user-pays, user-benefits” approach to fish and wildlife conservation. The shooting, hunting, fishing and boating industries pay excise taxes on the equipment they produce for purchase by hunters, anglers, boaters, archers and other recreational shooters. Excise taxes are also collected on the motorboat and small engine fuels purchased by boaters. The industries pass the collected excise taxes to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which then allocates the revenue to states based on geographic area and the number of hunting and fishing license holders in the state.
WSFR Funds at Work
This tremendously successful partnership among state and federal agencies and the shooting, hunting, fishing and boating industries has helped the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission acquire lands for hunting, trapping and fishing, construct and maintain wildlife management areas and fish hatcheries, promote youth fishing, manage wildlife and fisheries resources and provide access to the state’s public waters.
A few of the programs the Commission has funded through WSFR monies are:
Game Land Program, consisting of more than 2 million acres of public and private lands in North Carolina managed by the Commission for public hunting, trapping and fishing.
American Shad Restoration on the Roanoke River Program, a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore the Roanoke River American shad population by stocking more than 44 million shad from 1999 to 2012.
Wild Turkey Restoration Program, a multi-decade effort to restore depleted turkey populations in the state that involved live-trapping and relocating more than 6,000 wild turkeys from other states to areas in North Carolina where the bird was no longer found.
Hunter Education Program, a series of multi-faceted courses that includes instruction on ethics and responsibility, conservation and wildlife management, wildlife identification, survival and first aid, specialty hunting and hunting safety.
The Commission also uses WSFR money to provide more than 200 free boating access areas to 80 different bodies of water across the state and to operate six fish hatcheries that raise approximately 6 million fish annually for stocking into public, inland waters.
Other projects funded with WSFR monies include shooting and archery range construction and maintenance, and fisheries research and survey work, such as crappie surveys in B. Everett Jordan Reservoir, walleye surveys in Lake James and striped bass management in reservoirs throughout the Piedmont.
Find out more about how the Commission uses WSFR money to create better fishing, hunting, shooting and boating opportunities for North Carolinians of all ages and abilities by visiting the Commission’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Program page.
Reach at or 336-846-7164.
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