How the Fiscal Cliff Will Hurt Hunting and Fishing

This post is part of our series on the impacts of “sequestration”—a series of automatic budget cuts that will kick in starting in January unless Congress acts. These cuts will have a huge and devastating impact on conservation programs that safeguard wildlife, ensure our access to clean air and water, and protect our public lands.  Read on to learn more about one of the many important programs impacted by these cuts, and find out what you can do to help.

Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Fund

Many of North Americans’ favorite fish—rainbow trout, smelt, striped bass, bonefish,  scamp, Alabama cavefish, snapper, black grouper, yellow perch, blackspotted stickleback, flounder, monkfish, and gefilte, to name a few—will be at risk if the sequester budget cuts go into effect. National Wildlife Federation’s four million members love to fish. And fishing and hunting are on the rise: according to the 2011 national survey released by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, there has been a 9% increase in hunters and an 11% increased in anglers over the last five years.

Protect America’s fishing legacy!
Photo: Colorado Division of Wildlife
Since its establishment in 1937, The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Fund (WSFR), has distributed more than $14 billion to state fish and wildlife agencies for on-the-ground conservation projects.

The WSFR exists thanks to two pieces of legislation: the 1937 Pittman Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act, which put an excise tax on sporting guns and ammunition in order to fund wildlife restoration, and the 1950 Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act, which applied the same principle to fisheries restoration. Together, the two funds offer one of the most successful examples of the “user pay/user benefit” principle: the funds come entirely from a modest excise tax on fishing and hunting equipment, and are distributed to states by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to be used for conservation projects that enhance wildlife recreation and hunting and fishing opportunities.  Nevertheless, these funds already reserved for conservation will be subject to deep and catastrophic cuts under sequestration.

A Legacy of Conservation

The WSFR has had perhaps more impact than any other single conservation program. The flexible distribution of the funds means that states have considerable agency in deciding how best to use them, and WSFR has been used for an incredible variety of conservation programs. Over the past 75 years, it has helped restore countless wildlife populations and habitats, supported outdoor recreation and education program, and assisted states in acquiring delicate wetlands.

In 2012, the WSFR gave out about $720 million to states for conservation and restoration programs, funding that is crucial to the day-to-day operation of state fish and wildlife agencies.

Under sequestration, however, spending by the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Fund will be cut by a total of $65 million—funds that would otherwise go towards restoring critical wildlife habitats and fisheries.

What is more, the continued funding of sportsmen-valued programs like the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program is incredibly important to our economy:  in 2011, over 37 million hunters and anglers spent $90 billion in recreational expenditures nationwide.  The recent sportsmen’s poll released by National Wildlife Federation showed that, regardless of political affiliation, America’s sportsmen are committed to conservation programs like WSFR.

Take Action

At a time when climate change was almost completely absent from the presidential election , it is more important than ever to fight for the crucial conservation programs we rely on to protect wildlife for our children’s future. Click on the button to contact your Senators and Representatives today to let them know that sequestration will have a huge impact on the conservation programs you care about, and urge them to work towards a balanced approach to raise revenue, reduce the deficit, and prevent these cuts.