Funding key to the futureIn North Dakota, your fishing license, along with several other licenses including general game, small game and furbearer, will expire March 31. In the weeks following, tens of thousands of North Dakotans will renew their licenses throughout spring with the onset of open water fishing, carrying on the tradition of anglers and hunters funding the future of our outdoor heritage across the nation.
By: By Doug Leier, North Dakota Outdoors, The Jamestown Sun
In North Dakota, your fishing license, along with several other licenses including general game, small game and furbearer, will expire March 31.
In the weeks following, tens of thousands of North Dakotans will renew their licenses throughout spring with the onset of open water fishing, carrying on the tradition of anglers and hunters funding the future of our outdoor heritage across the nation.
But license dollars only account for part of this funding picture.
Much of the rest of it comes from a manufacturer’s excise tax on fishing, hunting and shooting equipment, and gas used for boating.
And this year marks 75 years since President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, the first of several landmark pieces of federal legislation that provide funds for wildlife and fisheries management as well as fishing, hunting, shooting and boating recreational and educational programs.
Today, all those programs together are called the Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Program.
“Since its 1937 inception, WSFR has provided more than $14 billion to support fish and wildlife restoration and management,” said Hannibal Bolton, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 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.”
These funds, administered by the service, are combined with hunting license dollars in each state to fund important state wildlife conservation and hunting and fishing programs. From time to time, for one reason or another, I’ll get an earful from someone who says, “I’m a taxpayer and I pay your salary.”
When that happens, I’ll politely correct that while State Game and Fish Department employees do work for the state of North Dakota, nearly all of the agency’s budget comes from license fees and federal excise taxes, and none of it comes from the state general fund.
It’s the consumptive users who fund Game and Fish Department activities. “The WSFR programs provide 75 percent of the costs for nearly all of our game management surveys, research and harvest surveys while also providing 75 percent of the costs for management of our wildlife management areas, and we have used these federal matching funds to help run the popular Private Land Open to Sportsmen program,” said Randy Kreil, department wildlife chief.
Greg Power, department chief of fisheries, says a 1984 amendment that added motorboat fuels and previously exempted sport-fishing equipment into the excise tax, is a major contributor to the agency’s fisheries budget.
I think a lot of hunters and anglers understand that their license fees help fund programs related to hunting and fishing. The role of the excise and boat fuel taxes are probably not as well understood, even though WSFR dollars returned to the states provide for nearly half of our state Game and Fish Department’s overall budget.
The next time you buy a fishing lure or box of shotgun shells, remember that a small portion of that purchase contributes to the future of fishing or hunting, just like license dollars.
It’s a historic and unique formula worth special recognition after 75 years, and in every year to come.
Leier is a biologist with the North Dakota Game Fish Department. He can be reached by email: email@example.com. Read his blog at dougleier.areavoices.com