The Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act, commonly referred to as the Dingell-Johnson act, passed on August 9, 1950, was modeled after the Pittman-Robertson Act to create a parallel program for management of fishery resources, conservation, and restoration. The Sport Fish Restoration program is funded by revenues collected from the manufacturers of fishing rods, reels, creels, lures, flies and artificial baits, who pay an excise tax on these items to the U.S. Treasury.

An amendment in 1984 (Wallop-Breaux Amendment) added new provisions to the Act by extending the excise tax to previously untaxed items of sporting equipment. Each State's share is based 60 percent on its licensed anglers (fishermen) and 40 percent on its land and water area. No State may receives more than 5 percent or less than 1 percent of each year's total apportionment. Puerto Rico receives 1 percent, and the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, and the District of Columbia each receive one-third of 1 percent.

The program is a cost-reimbursement program, where the state covers the full amount of an approved project then applies for reimbursement through Federal Aid for up to 75 percent of the project expenses. The state must provide at least 25 percent of the project costs from a non-federal source.

Amendments to the Sport Fish Restoration Act

Four amendments to the Sport Fish Restoration Act significantly altered the Program:

  • Enactment of the Wallop-Breaux Amendment (W-B) in 1984
  • Inclusion of wetlands conservation provisions in 1990
  • Creation of a boat-related waste pumpout facilities program through amendments in 1992
  • Enactment of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century

The major element of the W-B Amendment established a new Trust Fund, named the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund. Funds are also received from import duties on sport fishing equipment, pleasure boats and yachts. Another source of revenue is a tax from motorboat fuel sales. These motorboat fuel taxes are collected by the U.S. Treasury and then transferred to the Fish and Wildlife Service for distribution among the States and territories.

The passage of TEA-21 authorized a National Outreach and Communications Program to increase participation in angling and boating while reminding boaters and anglers about the importance of clean aquatic habitats. It also increased the minimum level of spending for boating access to 15% and raised the maximum allowable expenditure of Sport Fish Restoration apportionments for aquatic education and outreach to 15%. TEA-21 created a Boating Infrastructure Program for the construction, maintenance, or renovation of facilities for non-trailerable recreational boats (boats greater than 26 feet in length.) TEA-21 raises the amount of Federal gas tax credited to the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund and establishes a "permanent" appropriation for the Boating Safety Account.