As winter transitions to spring here in the Northeast, our thoughts turn to the coming longer days, warmer temperatures, and time on the water. It is a fitting season to give credit where credit is due to the often unsung – and absolutely essential – industry partners whose support allow fish and wildlife agencies across the nation to offer the greatest public recreational fisheries in the world. That is not an exaggeration. We have something special here in this country, and it would not be possible without the businesses whose excise tax dollars fill the Sportfish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund. Witness that our agency, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, will have $10.1 million available to it to achieve essential conservation and angler and boating access work this year. Nationwide, all the states and territories will receive a combined total of $424 million.
This past year, the Commission was honored to team up with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the American Sportfishing Association to host two Partner with A Payer events. Both highlighted the value of the excise tax contributions to fisheries management and public angler access. Partner with a Payer events give angling-related businesses a chance to interact with biologists, hatchery staff, and agency administrators in a full-immersion field experience to better understand what goes into maintaining fish populations pursued by their customers, and moreover, to witness how excise tax dollars are spent.
At those events, we showed business partners the field sampling techniques employed by fisheries biologists, toured fish hatchery operations that supplement naturally reproducing sportfish populations, and even put the attendees to work in helping us collect and spawn steelhead from a tributary to Lake Erie on a sun-dappled day. The steelhead collection along the Lake Erie shoreline and subsequent spawning at our nearby hatchery were particularly meaningful since we had student volunteers helping alongside industry partners. The smiles on the faces of the adults were just as big as those on the kids. It was a pleasure to step back and see them working together with our staff as they learned about and helped with the production cycle that will ultimately result in the tug on a line at the end of a fishing rod. You can watch a video on steelhead collection and spawning here.
Anyone who lives for the thrill of that tug needs to know that their tackle purchases are critical to making the experience possible. State fish and wildlife agencies strategically leverage the excise taxes paid on that tackle along with fishing licenses sales, and we reinvest those dollars in conservation to benefit those who fish.
I frequently say that we need to be able to look an angler in the eye and tell them we are using their license dollars wisely. At the Partner with a Payer events, it was a privilege to look the manufacturers and distributors in the eye and tell them the same thing about their excise tax investments.
On behalf of the fish and wildlife agencies across the country, thank you to our industry partners for your sustained commitment to investing in the work that we do with and for you and your customers.
– Timothy D. Schaeffer, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission