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Sport Fish Restoration: Where Money Does Buy Happiness

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Published on: Oct. 2, 1995

Last revision: Oct. 20, 2010

A decade ago, an amendment to the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act resulted in an increase of federal money to support sport fish projects. This increase proved a boon for Missouri anglers and boaters - and for aquatic life in Missouri's streams and lakes.

You may not know about the Sport Fish Restoration Act, even though you may be helping to fund it with your purchases of fishing tackle and motor boat fuel.

The Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act was signed in 1950 by President Harry Truman. The legislation had been promoted by Rep. John Dingell Sr. of Michigan and Sen. Edwin Johnson of Colorado.

Appropriately called the Dingell-Johnson Act, this legislation earmarked excise taxes that were being paid by manufacturers on sales of rods, reels and other fishing tackle to be deposited into a special account for distribution to the states.

Each state receives an annual share, based on the state's land and water area, number of licensed anglers and amount of excise tax collected nationally each year. The act has proven to be an outstanding example of a "user fee" program, because those who use the resources are the ones who pay.

Before receiving any Dingell-Johnson money, states must submit project proposals for approval at the federal level. Money from the act can be used to fund up to 75 percent of each project; the states must provide the other 25 percent. In Missouri, the Conservation Department is the state agency that receives and dispenses this funding.

The Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1950 was a wonderful thing for sport fishing because state fish and wildlife agencies could use their limited budgets to get $3 for every $1 of state money. Sport fishing programs benefited greatly for the next several years. However, by the late 1970s it was apparent that the amount of money available to states was just not enough.

An amendment passed in 1984, under the leadership of now retired Sen. Malcolm Wallop of Wyoming and Sen. John Breaux of Louisiana, increased the number of fishing tackle items subject to the federal excise tax. It also added a portion of the federal excise tax on motorboat fuels and the import duties on imported fishing tackle and boats and made available to the states any interest earned on the money.

"The Wallop-Breaux program remains the cornerstone of our Congressional efforts to restore and maintain healthy fisheries nationwide," said Breaux, who enjoys recreational

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