Sport Fish Restoration Act paying dividends

Published 7:20 am Thursday, July 14, 2022


By James L. Cummins

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 Since 1950, anglers and hunters have been paying for fish and wildlife management in Mississippi, and throughout the nation, through license fees and a federal tax diversion program on hunting and fishing gear sales.

Spend $4 for fish and wildlife management projects and get $3 of it back from the federal government (courtesy of you and me, of course!). Sounds like a great investment and the kind of program we would all like to be a part of, doesn’t it? In fact, we are. 

The Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Program and the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Program pay the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources (MDMR) $3 for every $4 spent on federally approved fish and wildlife-management projects in the state.

This program is a “user-pay-user benefit” operation. First created in 1950, when the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act was passed, the program diverts the federal excise taxes on fishing tackle, motorboat fuel taxes, and import duties on tackle and boats to the states for sport fisheries and development projects. These revenues are collected by the sport fishing industry, deposited in the Department of Treasury, and allocated the year following collection to state agencies for wildlife and fisheries projects as well as access projects such as boat ramps and fishing piers.

In 1984, as a result of the Wallop‑Breaux Amendment to the Federal Aid in Sport Restoration Act (part of the deficit reduction act in 1984), the program was amended and expanded to include a revenue of types of projects eligible for funding. Sponsored by Senator Malcolm Wallop of Wyoming and Representative John Breaux of Louisiana, the expanded sources of revenue identified in the act resulted in a 10% excise tax on additional items of fishing tackle and equipment; a 3% excise tax on electric trolling motors and sonar fish finders; a federal excise tax paid on motor fuels used for recreational boating; and import dues on fishing tackle, yachts, and pleasure crafts. 

This expansion also added new factors which influenced the states’ projects including program funding levels, boating access, aquatic resources education, and equitable expenditure between freshwater and saltwater projects.

The MDWFP and the MDMR have accomplished much through the application of Sport Fish Restoration Program funds.

Looking back, the initial MDWFP Dingell‑Johnson Project in 1951, addressed a game-fish survey of the impounded public fishing waters of Mississippi. Since then, federal assistance projects have been conducted on such projects as age and growth of fish, habitat restoration, lake fertilization, and large bass minimum length limits.

As you can see, the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Program is a vital part of our fish management program in Mississippi. For over 70 years this program has been instrumental in the MDWFP and the MDMR efforts to advance the conservation, management, restoration, and enhancement of Mississippi’s fisheries resources.

James L. Cummins is executive director of Wildlife Mississippi, a non-profit, conservation organization founded to conserve, restore, and enhance fish, wildlife, and plant resources throughout Mississippi. Their website is