On July 29, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Members Senators John Barrasso (WY), Tom Carper (DE), Shelley Capito (WV), as well as Senator Ben Cardin (MD) introduced America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (S. 2302). The following day, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee passed S. 2302 on a unanimous vote of 21 - 0.
This bipartisan bill authorizes $287 billion over five years to improve road safety, and enhance community connectivity and recreational opportunities while prioritizing important initiatives to advance fish and wildlife conservation. Some of the critical provisions contained in the baseline bill include:
- Raising the cap by $10 million to a total of $20 million on Federal Lands Transportation Program (FLTP) funds that may be used to improve public safety and to reduce wildlife vehicle collisions while maintaining habitat connectivity.
- Establishing a 5-year, $250 million pilot program with the goal of reducing wildlife vehicle collisions by providing grants to improve habitat connectivity.
- Amending the Forest Roads and Trails Act to require the Secretary of Agriculture to perform maintenance and repairs on National Forest System infrastructure including roads, trails, and bridges.
- Adding animal detection systems as eligible priority consideration for intelligent transportation system (ITS) research projects to reduce the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions.
While there are a number of outstanding provisions that need to be added to the baseline bill through the legislative process, one critically important provision that was not included, due to Committee jurisdictional issues, is the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Safety Trust Fund (Trust Fund), which is the backbone for state based fishery conservation funding in the United States. Funding for the Trust Fund was originally attained through excise taxes on fishing tackle and equipment, but was later expanded in 1984 through the Wallop-Breaux amendment to include motorboat fuel, which has since relied on the highway/transportation bill for reauthorization. These excise taxes generate around $650 million annually and nearly $10 billion total since 1950 for state-based fisheries conservation. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) will continue to work with our partners and CSC Members to ensure this critical provision is included in the bill for reauthorization.
CSF praises the significant steps that the Senate EPW Committee has taken to better our nation’s infrastructure and fish and wildlife conservation while increasing sporting access opportunities.
The bill now awaits further action in the Senate.