Voices of anglers and boaters are needed
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will lose federal funding of nearly a million dollars that you helped contribute if Congress fails to pass a budget before the end of the year. Our federal government could breach trust with America's anglers and boaters by sequestering their contributions from the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Safety Trust Fund that goes to pay for aquatic resource conservation, public access to waterways and boating safety education, says the PF&BC.
According to the PF&BC, Congress passed the Budget Control Act in 2011 that mandated automatic federal spending cuts, known as sequestration, to reduce the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. Unless a spending plan is enacted, those cuts will become effective on Jan. 2, 2013, which will impact nearly all taxpayer-funded federal government agencies and programs.
The Sport Fish Restoration Program was established in 1950 to restore fish populations, and the Boating Safety Trust Fund followed in 1984. These programs and monies have a proven track record, says the PF&BC, of entrusting state agencies as the recipients of the nation's users-pay, public-benefits funding system for fish and wildlife conservation.
The Sport Fish and Boating Safety Trust Fund would suffer a 7.6 percent cut that equates to a loss of approximately $43 million to all state fish and wildlife agencies in 2013. And unlike other programs, these funds are not taxpayer dollars derived from income taxes but are raised through excise taxes levied on fishing tackle and equipment that we all contribute to and motorboat fuel that industry pays quarterly to the federal government.
According to PF&BC Executive Director John Away, "The projected financial impact of losing 7.6 percent or $859,000 means we will have to reduce services Pennsylvania anglers and boaters."
When I asked Eric Levis, PF&BC information officer if this would mean a substantial increase in fishing license fees, he responded by saying, "It's too early to make that decision now, but the decision to seek a price increase can never be ruled out."
He went on to say that his agency would first look at other opportunities to save money to avoid an license increase by eliminating programs, reducing the amount of fish that are raised and the amount they stock. Those, plus not filling staff positions as employees leave or retire.
Levis added that the PF&BC is examining alternative ways to raise revenue. "We're currently generating revenue by allowing water to be withdrawn from our lakes and by allowing natural gas to be extracted from beneath our properties. We're also about to launch a marketing campaign to sell multi-year licenses, which we think will attract current customers and some new customers. And our executive director is pursuing with the legislature the idea that all withdrawals from the state's waterways should be subject to a consumptive use fee."
Levis assured that raising the price of a fishing license would be one of the last options, particularly since during every price increase the agency loses from 8-10 percent of our anglers.
So … what to do? Ask members of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senators Bob Casey and Patrick Toomey to exempt the Sport Fish Restoration Program and Boating Safety Trust Fund by calling the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 or by visiting www.house.gov or www.senate.gov.
CABELA'S BLACK FRIDAY FREEBIES
To celebrate the hectic Black Friday shopping day, Cabela's is giving gifts valued at more than $240,000 nationwide to the first 600 shoppers in line at each of its U.S. stores, Friday, Nov. 23, 2012.
Early Black Friday shoppers will be treated to hot coffee, snacks, games, entertainment, camp fires and have a chance to take home a Browning rifle, Masterbuilt electric smoker, Nikon Pro binoculars, Bushnell Legend binoculars, a Cabela's Realtree camo hoodie, or a Cabela's gift card worth up to $100.
The first 600 customers, ages 18 and older, will be given a mystery envelope containing information about their gifts. All gifts will be distributed randomly and winners will be able to pick up their gift at the store immediately after opening. Gun winners will have to undergo a standard federal background check.
All Cabela's stores are scheduled to open at 5 a.m. on Black Friday and will remain open until 10 p.m. Cabela's, unlike a lot of stores, will be closed Thanksgiving Day to allow employees to enjoy the holiday.