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TRANSPORTATION ACT SPELLS SUCCESS FOR ANGLERS, BOATERS, REFUGES



Posted on behalf of Rich Greenwood <rich_greenwood@smtp2.irm.r9.fws.gov> 

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	 TRANSPORTATION ACT SPELLS SUCCESS FOR ANGLERS, BOATERS,
                  AND NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGES
     
The millions of dollars anglers and boaters spend for fishing 
equipment and boating fuel now will provide better protection for 
natural resources, create more recreation opportunities, and will 
continue to improve boating safety, thanks to a major 
transportation act signed into law today by President Clinton. 
Thousands of miles of crumbling roads within the National Wildlife 
Refuge System also will be repaired under the new law's 
provisions.
     
"Through the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA 
21), President Clinton and Congress have created an even greater 
legacy of care for the Nation's aquatic natural resources and the 
people who enjoy them," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
Director Jamie Rappaport Clark.  "In addition, the act now places 
the National Wildlife Refuge System on a par with other major 
land-managing agencies by providing significant support for refuge 
road repair."
     
"I applaud Congress' efforts to address the maintenance needs of 
the National Wildlife Refuge System," said Director Clark.  "I 
also want to recognize the tremendous leadership of Senators John 
Chafee and Max Baucus in making sure this legislation addressed 
these needs.  Receiving this funding under the Federal Lands 
Highways Program will help us ensure safe and accessible roads for 
the 30 million Americans who visit national wildlife refuges each 
year.  It will also allow the Fish and Wildlife Service to target 
limited resources toward vital wildlife conservation programs on 
refuges."
     
Sport fishing, boating, and refuge system benefits from the new 
law include:
     
     Repairing Refuge Roads:  The act's Federal Lands Highways 
     Program includes $20 million in new funding for wildlife 
     refuge roads each year from 1999 to 2003.  According to 
     Federal Highway Administration (FHA) studies, refuge roads 
     are used more intensively by the public than all national 
     forest roads and Department of Defense roads combined. 
     Currently, the refuge system, consisting of 512 wildlife 
     refuges and 38 wetland management districts, suffers from a 
     $158-million road maintenance backlog for its 4,250 miles of 
     public roads and 424 bridges.  Based on an FHA analysis, 70 
     percent of refuge roads are in poor condition, 25 percent 
     are in fair condition, and only 5 percent are considered in 
     good condition.  In addition, 90 percent of refuge bridges 
     need safety and maintenance repairs.
     
     Additional Assets for Aquatic Resource Conservation:  The 
     act will generate a projected increase of $135 million in 
     transfers of revenues to the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund, 
     which fuels the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration 
     Program.  The fund now receives 11.5 cents of every 18.3 
     cents in Federal tax collected on every gallon of gasoline 
     used by boaters.  This figure will rise to 13 cents on 
     October 1, 2001, and to 13.5 cents on October 1, 2003.  The 
     mechanism that provides for these increases in transfers 
     also will apply to small-engine fuel taxes, which will be 
     used for wetlands restoration.
     
     Continuing Clean Vessel Program Successes:  The new law 
     makes $10 million available annually from 1999 to 2003 under 
     the highly successful clean vessel program.  The funds 
     provide for marine sanitation pumpout facilities that help 
     minimize the dumping of human waste into waters. 
     
     Better Boating Access and Infrastructure:  The new act 
     increases from 12.5 percent to 15 percent the amount of money 
     each state must spend on boating access from its Federal Aid 
     in Sport Fish Restoration Program apportionment. In addition, 
     the act provides $8 million annually from 2000 to 2003 to 
     meet the special needs of recreational boats that are not 
     trailered.  The new Service-administered program will provide 
     funds to states to pay up to 75 percent of the costs of 
     building, renovating, or maintaining public marine facilities 
     such as slips, mooring buoys, day docks, and navigational 
     aids. 
     
     Education and Outreach Emphasis:  A new national outreach 
     and communications program for sport fishing and boating is 
     funded at $5 million in 1999, and funding increases 
     progressively each year until it reaches $10 million in 
     2003.  The program is expected to increase interest in sport 
     fishing and boating and in the conservation ethic these 
     activities instill in participants.  The Fish and Wildlife 
     Service also is authorized to spend up to $2.5 million a 
     year of Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration administrative 
     funds for outreach and communications programs.  In 
     addition, the amount of Federal Aid in Sport Fish 
     Restoration money states may spend on aquatic resource 
     education efforts increases from 10 to 15 percent of each 
     state's Sport Fish Restoration apportionment.
     
     Boating Safety Funding Stability:  TEA 21 also provides 
     additional support and a more stable source of funding for 
     grants to states for boating safety programs.
     
TEA 21 is the successor to the Intermodal Surface Transportation 
Efficiency Act (ISTEA), which expired September 30, 1997. 
Congress extended ISTEA through March 31; funds from the act were 
available through the end of May.  The U.S. Senate voted 88 to 5 
and the U.S. House of Representatives voted 297 to 86 to approve 
the TEA 21 conference report.  The bill was approved for the 
President's signature May 22.
     
The Aquatic Resources Trust Fund, provided for within ISTEA and 
TEA 21, makes funding available for the Federal Aid in Sport Fish 
Restoration Program and Recreational Boating Safety Program.  The 
programs are funded through excise taxes on fishing tackle, 
electric trolling motors, flasher-type sonar fish finders, 
motorboat and small-engine fuels, and import duties on fishing 
tackle and pleasure boats.  Considered a model user-pays, user- 
benefits program, the Service-administered Sport Fish Restoration 
Program provides grants to states for sport fish restoration and 
management, aquatic education and boating access. 
     
Deposits in the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund, which is comprised 
of the Sport Fish Restoration Account and the Boating Safety 
Account, will exceed $334 million for Fiscal Year 1998.  States 
will receive $272 million from the Sport Fish Restoration Account 
this year. 
     
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal 
agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish 
and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the 
American people.  The Service manages more than 94 million acres 
of land and water consisting of 512 national wildlife refuges, 78 
ecological services field stations, 65 national fish hatcheries, 
50 wildlife coordination areas, and 38 wetland management 
districts with waterfowl production areas.
     
The agency also enforces Federal wildlife laws, manages migratory 
bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, 
conserves and restores wildlife habitat, such as wetlands, 
administers the Endangered Species Act, and helps foreign 
governments with their conservation efforts.  It also oversees 
the Federal Aid program that distributes Federal excise taxes on 
fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies.  This 
program is a cornerstone of the Nation's wildlife management 
efforts, funding fish and wildlife restoration, boating access, 
hunter education, shooting ranges, and related projects across 
America.
     
                              -FWS-
     
     
     
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