The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is embarking on a yearlong celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR), one of the most significant and successful partnership approaches to fish and wildlife conservation in U.S. history.
The “WSFR 75 – It’s Your Nature” celebration brings together federal and state fish and wildlife agencies; the hunting, shooting, angling, and boating industries; and conservation groups to mark a milestone of partnership success that has led to 75 years of quality hunting, fishing, shooting, boating and other wildlife-associated recreation.
The occasion also marks the beginning of a new era in wildlife conservation, during which the partners will establish new goals for fostering and maintaining partnerships to continue conservation and outdoor recreation into the next 75 years and beyond.
“The Service is proud to join our partners in recognizing more than seven decades of wildlife conservation and quality outdoor recreational opportunities,” said Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “With our nation’s support and our partnership’s renewed commitment, WSFR will help more Americans enjoy wildlife and our great outdoors for many years to come.”
Through the WSFR program, which is based on the “user pay/user benefit” principle, sportsmen and women have contributed billions of dollars to wildlife and fisheries conservation through excise taxes paid on firearms, ammunition, and hunting and fishing equipment.
The first step in what has become known as the North American Model of Wildlife Management was taken on Sept. 2, 1937, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (now commonly referred to as the Pittman-Robertson Act), which raises funds through a dedicated excise tax on the sale of sporting guns and ammunition.
In 1950, the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act (commonly referred to today as the Dingell-Johnson Act) was enacted and added to the WSFR program. Through this law, funds are provided for fish conservation and boating and fishing recreational programs in each state through an excise tax placed on certain fishing and boating equipment and fuels.
The Pittman-Robertson funds collected each year are returned to the states and can be used for the reintroduction of declining species, wildlife population surveys, species research, hunter education, acquisition of wildlife habitat, and the development of shooting ranges.
Similarly, Dingell-Johnson funds can be used by the states for fish research, reintroducing declining sport fish species, restoring aquatic habitat such as coastal wetlands, aquatic education, constructing boat ramps and fishing piers, and boating access.
“Since its 1937 inception, WSFR has provided more than $14 billion to support fish and wildlife restoration and management,” said Hannibal Bolton, the Service’s assistant director for the WSFR program. “The program and its partners, including the sporting arms industry, conservation groups, and sportsmen and sportswomen, are coming together for this anniversary to renew their commitment to conserve fish and wildlife and enhance hunter, angler, and boater recreation.”
WSFR funds, administered by the USFWS, are combined with hunting license dollars in each state to form the core of important state wildlife conservation and hunting programs.
“The 75th anniversary of the WSFR program is a tremendous opportunity to celebrate the conservation victories that have been made possible because of this innovative funding approach,” said Jonathan Gassett, PhD, president of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “WSFR has made the difference for the survival and abundance of some species, and because of it, many fish and wildlife populations are at historically high levels today.”
Industry and agency partnerships and the contribution of hunters, anglers and boaters have helped the WSFR program become what it is today.
“The WSFR programs have not only supported fish and wildlife conservation, they have also supported small businesses that manufacture and sell hunting and fishing equipment,” said Myke Lynch, general manager of Green Top Sporting Goods in Richmond, Va. “The industry supporting sportsmen has a multi-million dollar impact on the nation’s economy, and it depends on healthy fish and wildlife populations.”
The WSFR 75th anniversary will include participation in various fish and wildlife conservation events and conferences throughout the year, to culminate with National Hunting and Fishing Day in September 2012.
For more information about the history of the WSFR program and its 75th Anniversary in 2012, visit http://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/ and www.wsfr75.com.