Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund – Frequently Asked Questions

SanJ-River_1423x290-300x180I always hear we are “North America’s greatest conservationists.” Where does that saying come from?
Good question. Did you know that most fishing and boating enhancement and education programs are paid for by outdoorsmen? It’s true. The money comes from two sources: fishing license fees and the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund (SFRBTF).

What is the SFRBTF?
Often referred to as the “trust fund,” the SFRBTF is a program managed by the federal government that receives funds from a special tax on fishing equipment, motor boat fuel, and small engine fuel. The money that is collected is set aside and directed for use by state Fish and Wildlife agencies.

Another tax? I don’t like the sound of that…
Don’t worry, this is a good tax. It works like this – Every time you buy fishing equipment or gas for your boat, you are automatically making a contribution to the trust fund. Many people don’t know about these taxes, called excise taxes, because they are included in the purchase price and are generally invisible.

So if you’ve bought fishing equipment and gas in the last 65 years, you’ve been paying into the SFRBTF and may not have even known it.

How much money gets paid out of the trust fund each year?
In 2015, over $600 million was distributed from the trust fund for programs like building new boat ramps, running hatcheries and stocking fish, and building wildlife education centers to teach kids about the outdoors.

How does the trust fund money get divvied out?
There are two steps to request money from the trust fund.

First, each state agency has to submit a plan to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service describing the programs they want money for.

Next, the applicants have to be prepared to match whatever they receive from the trust fund with money they have collected from fishing license sales. Don’t forget – your license fees get spent on conservation efforts, too.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife then reviews the plans and divides up what is in the trust fund accordingly.

What happens if a state doesn’t submit a plan?
They don’t get the federal money.

Between excise taxes and fishing license purchases, how much money is generated each year for fishing conservation and boating programs?
Over $600 million was distributed from the trust fund in 2015. Additionally, another $600 million in licenses and fees was added to the pot. That’s over $1.2 billion. By buying gear, filling up your gas tanks, and buying your required licenses, you take part in a conservation model called User Pay – Public Benefit.

What are the benefits of SFRBTF?
Over the last 8 years through SFRBTF:
– 3.8 billion fish were stocked
– 63,337 acres of fish habitat were restored
– 4.7 million students were taught about fishing and aquatic education
– 3,800 boating access sites were constructed
– Thousands of jobs for state Fish and Wildlife employees and contractors were supported

Is the trust fund ever in danger of being taken away?
The trust fund is permanent, so excise taxes will continue to be collected and given out as they have been for the past 65 years. However, the percentages collected and deposited could change. For example, gasoline taxes could be raised or lowered and that would affect the amount of money going into the trust fund.

That’s why it’s imperative that our elected officials understand how necessary this fund is for the health of our natural resources and the continuation of our sporting heritage

Anyone who supports the conservation and preservation of our nation’s waterways – whether they fish, or not – needs to be aware that it’s the sporting community who foots the bill for this important work.


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