WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Jack Reed announced that the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is awarding the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) two grants totaling $10,737,672 through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration (WSFR) Program, which helps states properly care for outdoor recreational areas.
The Ocean State will receive $6,741,058 through the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program and $3,996,614 through the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Program. This federal funding will help state wildlife and conservation officials fund a variety of projects and programs, including fish and wildlife management, habitat restoration and protection, improving boating and hunting access, and other activities. These programs were reauthorized in the recently enacted Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
“This funding will help protect and restore Rhode Island’s open spaces, waters, and fish and wildlife habitat that is crucial to our environment, economy, and way of life. These funds will boost conservation and opportunities for outdoor recreation, while supporting Rhode Island’s economy. This is a smart investment in Rhode Island’s outdoor recreation economy, wildlife and habitat restoration, and preserving these natural resources now and in the future,” said Reed, a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment, which oversees the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The WSFR Program is supported by fees from the sale of hunting and fishing equipment and electric outboard motors. Recreational boaters also contribute to the program through fuel taxes on motorboats and small engines. The taxes are collected from the outdoor industry by federal agencies and distributed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to state fish and wildlife agencies like DEM for on-the-ground conservation.
In order to access the full amount of funds, DEM must provide a 25 percent match. If any of the federal money does not get spent after two years, it is then re-allocated to other states through the Migratory Bird Conservation Act.
Sport Fish Restoration funds are used by fish and wildlife agencies to pay for programs such as stocking fish; acquiring and improving sport fish habitat; providing aquatic resource education opportunities; conducting fisheries research; maintaining public access; and constructing boat ramps, fishing piers, and other facilities for recreational boating access.
Wildlife Restoration Act funds are used by fish and wildlife agencies to manage wildlife populations, conduct habitat research, acquire wildlife lands and public access, carry out surveys and inventories, administer hunter education, and construct and maintain shooting ranges.
DEM is responsible for managing more than 60,000 acres of state land, including 25 state management areas, 400 miles of hiking and biking trails, 200 fishing spots, and over 200 public boat ramps in Rhode Island.
According to the latest figures from the Outdoor Industry Association, Rhode Island’s outdoor recreation industry helps support thousands of jobs and generates $646 million annually in wages and salaries.
Senator Reed helped pass the Great American Outdoors Act, fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually and helping to address the maintenance backlog on federal parks and public lands. Last year Rhode Island received over $2.8 million in LWCF funding.