Second Quarter WSFR Excise Tax Update

Second Quarter WSFR Excise Tax Update

Starting in 2018, the Wildlife Management Institute began reporting on the quarterly excise tax receipts from Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs. These revenues provide the primary funding source for state fish and wildlife conservation programs as part of what is known as the American System of Conservation Funding. This “user pay – public benefit” system of funding is supported by hunters, recreational shooters, anglers, and boaters (the “users”) and provides public lands, fishing and boating access points, and healthy fish and wildlife populations for the benefit of all those who enjoy the outdoors (the “public”).

A trio of anglers on the riverbank

WMI’s reporting on these excise tax collections is part of a Multi-State Conservation Grant working to improve relationships between the state fish and wildlife agencies and the industries who contribute to the excise tax program. Revenue data comes through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as reported to them by the two collection agencies responsible for the WSFR programs – the Internal Revenue Service and the Tax and Trade Bureau.

Revenues for the first half of Federal Fiscal Year 2019 (October 1, 2018 thru March 31, 2019) have been reported, allowing comparisons of these collections to the previous year. For the Sport Fish Restoration Account, there has been a 9 percent increase in collections when compared to the same period last year. While a significant portion of the increases were related to interest earnings on the monies in the account, we did see some healthy increases in collections related to fishing equipment and fishing rods – which is good for the industry.

The collections for the Wildlife Restoration account during the first half of this fiscal year are showing a 4 percent reduction from the same period last year. While these numbers look better than last year, they still represent a decrease in funding available to state wildlife agencies for wildlife management projects. There were some minor increases in collections for the sale of firearms and bows. However, collections for the sale of ammunition and arrows saw 11 percent and 24 percent decreases, respectively.

The Sport Fish Restoration Account

The Trends:

Here are the comparisons of the collections for FY 2018 and FY 2019

Trends Between Last and Current Fiscal Years      
Product FY 2018 (thru 3/18) FY 2019 (thru 3/19) % Change
Motorboat Fuel Tax $106,154,000 $107,181,000 1%
Small Engine Fuel Tax $56,378,000 $56,378,000 0%
Interest $10,535,196 $15,518,407 47%
Customs Duties $33,405,556 $32,769,281 -2%
Fishing Equipment $45,243,708 $58,798,712 30%
Electronic Boat Motors $1,680,494 $2,952,740 76%
Fishing Tackle Boxes $1,038,604 $729,414 -30%
Fishing Rods and Poles $7,798,694 $10,975,201 41%
Total Sportfish & Boating Restoration $262,234,252 $285,302,755 9%

The Funding Sources:

It is important to understand where these numbers come from, how they relate to past numbers and how the individual funding sources relate to the overall funding available. The following pie-chart provides a strong reference to how important the motorboat and small engine fuel taxes are to the support of state agency’s aquatic conservation efforts.

FY 2019 Sport Fish Restoration Fund Collections Q2 2019 Chart

Wildlife Restoration Account

The Trends:

Here are the comparisons of the collections for FY 2018 and FY 2019.

Trends Between Last and Current Fiscal Years      
Product FY 2018 (thru 3/18) FY 2019 (thru 3/19) % Change
Pistols & Revolvers $95,773,131 $94,640,646 -1%
Firearms $93,948,292 $95,257,589 1%
Shells & Cartridges $103,673,550 $92,023,327 -11%
Archery Equipment $21,530,568 $22,275,457 3%
Arrow Shafts $6,143,867 $4,652,054 -24%
Total Wildlife Restoration $321,069,408 $308,849,073 -4%

The Funding Sources:

Roughly speaking, less than 10 percent of the collections are coming from archery and around 30 percent each is coming from pistols, firearms, and ammunition.

FY 2019 Wildlife Restoration Fund Collections Q2 2019 Chart


Eternal optimists could celebrate that today’s numbers are better than the end of the previous fiscal year last October. That said, these number should be cause for alarm to anyone interested in fish and wildlife conservation and the way the North American Model for Wildlife Conservation is funded. The highly successful American System of Conservation Funding is showing signs of age and the conservation community needs to take notice. We are seeing growing populations and significant changes in demographics. In addition, the way that the public enjoys the outdoors and fish and wildlife resources is changing (mountain biking, hiking, birdwatching, etc.). The American System of Conservation Funding was designed around hunting and angling and our primary system of funding the management of fish and wildlife resources and providing access for outdoor recreation remains as it was in the early 20th century. In addition to all the great work that the hunting and angling community is doing on recruitment, retention, and reactivation, we need to look seriously at alternative ways to expand the funding base to support today’s (and tomorrow’s) conservation and outdoor recreation user.

The importance of alternative funding sources like the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is amplified when you look at these numbers and the strains we are putting on the current funding system. That said, we should not move away from the more traditional user pay systems of funding. While it is worth trying to identify new additional funding sources, history has shown that the strongest and most reliable funding for conservation comes from those identified as the “users” of conservation. If we support conservation with our own investments (equipment purchases, licenses, etc.), then we have a vested interest in ensuring that our fish and wildlife resources and our public lands are managed into the future. This approach was seen as “common sense” to those early icons of conservation that created Pittman/Robertson and Dingell/Johnson, and it is still common sense today.

Photo Credit
Land Between the Lakes, Flickr
May 15, 2019