WASHINGTON, DC – In advance of this weekend’s free freshwater fishing days in Rhode Island, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) today announced that Rhode Island is receiving $8.23 million this year to fund fish and wildlife conservation and recreation projects and preserve open spaces.  Senator Reed says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will distribute $8,232,316 to the Ocean State for Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration (WSFR) programs, including $3,465,173 through the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Program and $4,767,143 through the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program.

“This critical funding will enhance outdoor recreation opportunities and help the state conserve and manage fish and wildlife resources.  These programs are a smart way to invest in sustaining healthy fish and wildlife populations and preserve open spaces,” said Senator Reed, a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment, which oversees the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  “These programs are the result of our sportsmen and sportswomen stepping up to support outdoor recreation, public access, and conservation.  Rhode Island’s hunting and fishing communities deserve recognition and thanks for all they have done to protect habitats and public enjoyment of natural areas.  This program benefits all Rhode Islanders and the places that matter to wildlife and people.”

These funds come from fees generated by 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.  WSFR is based on a “user pay/user benefit” principle and 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 the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) for on-the-ground conservation.

“Rhode Island will continue to benefit from this important federal funding for our fish and wildlife conservation, boating access and land protection programs, thanks to the dedicated efforts of Senator Jack Reed and our Congressional delegation,” said Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit. “All across Rhode Island, we can see these funds at work – improving the fish ladder at Main Street in Wakefield on the Saugatucket River, to the preservation of wildlife habitat in North Kingstown at the former Girl Scout Camp Nokewa, to the reconstruction of the Sakonnet boat ramp in Little Compton. We are thankful for Senator Reed’s work to ensure that Rhode Island receives this critical funding to enhance outdoor recreation opportunities for present and future generations.”

Earlier this week, DEM announced that Saturday, May 2 and Sunday, May 3 are free fishing days in Rhode Island.  During those two days, all Rhode Islanders and visitors can fish in freshwaters without a fishing license or trout conservation stamp.  The free fishing weekend does not apply to saltwater fishing or saltwater licenses.

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.

Rhode Island’s Division of Fish and Wildlife is responsible for operating and managing twenty-four wildlife management areas totaling over 46,000 acres.  It also operates over 200 boat launching ramps and shore fishing areas located throughout the state.

Nationwide, the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs have generated a total of more than $15 billion since their inception – the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program began in 1937 and the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Program started in 1950.  The recipient fish and wildlife agencies have matched these program funds with more than $5 billion.