Sportsmen to celebrate 75 years of wildlife success

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Sportsmen and women are having a celebration this year, joining with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), and other partners.

This year marks the start of a year long 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.

Through the WSFR program, several innovative and foundational fish and wildlife conservation programs are administered.  The first was created on Sept. 2, 1937, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (it is also called the Pittman-Robertson fund), which raises funds through a dedicated excise tax on sporting guns and ammunition.

In 1950, the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act (known also as the Dingel-Johnson fund) 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 and is paid out to states on a formula of number of state licenses paid, population, size of lands being protected and other programs – and matched with state funds.

The programs have made possible restoration and protections of habitat for non-game animals as well as those considered game animals. In effect, hunters and anglers have been supporting wildlife conservation costs and programs that benefit everyone with an interest in our wildlife heritage.

What is important to know is that these programs have been in effect for three quarters of a century, They were requested by sportsmen themselves, and have operated through many parternships with sportsmen and conservationists that continue with loyal support and dedication after 75 years of common efforts and purpose.

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 wildlife-related 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 Director Dan Ashe 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.”

“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.”

These funds, administered by the Service, are combined with hunting license dollars in each state to fund 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, Ph.D., president, 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 have helped the WSFR program to become what it is today.  According to Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Executive Director Bob Duncan, “From the manufactures of hunting, shooting, fishing and boating equipment who have paid billions in special excise taxes, to the wildlife management efforts by state fish and wildlife agencies, and to all those who have ever purchased a hunting and fishing license, the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, has made it possible for everyone to enjoy the outdoors and the many benefits from its many conservation achievements.”

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.