Aug 02, 2005

After three years, two election cycles and eleven extensions, Congress has passed the Federal transportation bill, funding highways and transit over the next six years to the tune of $286.4 billion and including some important milestones for America's wildlife and outdoors enthusiasts.

The bill achieves full recovery into the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund (ARTF) of the 18.3 cents per gallon gasoline excise tax attributable to outboard motors and small engines. Previously, only 13.5 cents (or 73 percent) of the tax paid went into the ARTF to support the fishing and boating programs important to the nation's anglers and recreational boaters. Annually, this means an additional $110 million of assured funding to the state fish and wildlife agencies for sportfish restoration, boating safety, boating access, and other programs under the ARTF.

"Delaware's angling and boating community is ecstatic about the bill's provisions," said Patrick Emory, director of Delaware's Division of Fish and Wildlife. "This is definitely the 'shot in the arm' fish and wildlife agencies nationwide need during these times of budgetary constraint"

“The angling and boating community has worked for many years to restore this “user-pay-user-benefit” excise tax to the sportfishing and boating programs it was originally intended to benefit,” said John Cooper, secretary of the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department. “I know the states are all very grateful to the work of Congressman Don Young (AK) and Sen. James Inhofe (OK) for their work to move this bill through. It speaks volumes of their dedication to fish and wildlife.”

Likewise, Greg Duffy, director of Okalahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation said “It is encouraging to see the fish and wildlife provisions in this bill. It demonstrates how we can work across agencies to accomplish broad goals to benefit our nation's wildlife. We're proud that our Oklahoma Senator, James Inhofe, helped provide the leadership to make this happen.”

In addition to the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, there were several organizations in particular who led the charge on these Wallop-Breax provisions. They include: the Congressional Sportsman's Foundation, American Sportfishing Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.

“Transportation programs can have a profound effect on wildlife and their habitats,” says IAFWA executive vice-president,John Baughman. “It is vital that transportation projects consider science-based data during the earliest phases of planning to protect valuable habitat through appropriate design and through mitigation if impacts are unavoidable.” Congress also decided to incorporate provisions that will place wildlife conservation among the top priorities in transportation planning. Historically, highway projects were planned, funded and designed before considering the potential impacts to wildlife and habitat, leading to costly delays, lawsuits and habitat loss. Under the new law, transportation planners will work with state fish and wildlife agencies to avoid sensitive habitat locations.

Congress also commissioned a comprehensive study on the effects and impacts of wildlife- vehicle collisions, and fully funded the Enhancements Program that provides funding for wildlife passages.

“This bill marks a significant step forward for wildlife, and our research on wildlife crossings here in Arizona,” says Duane Shroufe, director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “We are hopeful that this will result in a better understanding of wildlife crossings and wildlife-highway relationships, and in the long run lead to safer highways for both the public that travel the highways and the wildlife that cross them.”

Other fish and wildlife conservation provisions included in the bill:
• $10M per year to enhance fish passage on Nat'l Forests (road culvert maintenance, repair, etc). • Increase in funding for National Wildlife Refuge system roads and trails from $25M to $29M per year.
• $1M per year for signage for access for hunting and fishing on public lands.
• Establishment of a program to educate state highway officials on best management practices (including preference for native vegetation) for highway shoulders and medians to minimize attraction to large grazing herbivores and thus reduce vehicular collisions.
• Increase in funding for recreational trails from $50M to $75M per year.

“The significant conservation features in the bill show a strong commitment by Congress and the Administration to our nation's fish and wildlife resources and the people who enjoy them,” said Wayne MacCallum, director of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife of the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Environmental Law Enforcement.

"Wyoming is delighted at the attention Congress has given wildlife in the transportation bill," said Terry Cleveland, Wyoming Game and Fish Department director. "The department looks forward to being more involved in highway planning and helping administer the other generous facets of this legislation to the benefit of the wildlife and citizens of Wyoming."

About the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (IAFWA) The International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (IAFWA), founded in 1902, represents the government agencies responsible for North America's fish and wildlife resources. IAFWA applies expertise in science, policy, economics and coalition-building to serve its members as a national and international voice on a broad array of wildlife and conservation issues. IAFWA can be found online at

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