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WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke today announced a $60 million cooperative agreement with the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) to help retain and recruit recreational anglers and boaters of all ages. Zinke is also announcing $14 million in Boating Infrastructure Grants (BIG), which support water-related outdoor recreation and tourism by improving facilities for large transient recreational boats across the country.

The Secretary made the announcement prior to attending the "Saluting the Nation’s Governors as Champions of the Great Outdoors" event, which was hosted by The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable and The Great Outdoors Month® Council.

"Outdoor recreation is a key part of our American heritage, and boating and fishing in particular are how many Americans enjoy our public waters," said Secretary Zinke. "The new cooperative agreement with RBFF is going to make sure we are reaching new anglers and boaters from all ages to get out on the water. The BIG grants help ensure that those new recreationists, as well as those who have enjoyed these activities for years, experience improved access to fishing opportunities with safer and more user-friendly recreational boating facilities."

The five-year, $12-million-per-year RBFF agreement will allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and RBFF to work together to bolster angler and boater numbers while engaging outdoor enthusiasts in natural resource stewardship. The USFWS BIG program provides funding through excise and other taxes on certain fishing equipment and boating fuel to support dedicated boat tie-up facilities and associated amenities to help Americans enjoy the nation’s waters.

"The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, in partnership with the Secretary of the Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state natural resource agencies, and industry stakeholders has increased fishing participation by nearly 20 percent over the past 10 years," said Glenn Hughes, American Sportfishing Association’s (ASA) Vice President, Industry Relations. "ASA is very pleased that RBFF’s grant was renewed for another five years, ensuring that there are a many programs and campaigns to recruit, retain and reactivate anglers."

"The role of RBFF and the work they do helping Americans get on the water, which in turn supports the conservation and restoration of our nation’s aquatic resources, has an incredibly positive and lasting impact on the recreational boating and fishing industries," said Thom Dammrich, President of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. "We applaud the Department of the Interior for recognizing RBFF’s significant contribution to outdoor recreation, and we look forward to continuing to support their efforts on behalf of the 142 million Americans who go boating each year."

BIG Program

Nearly $10 million will be awarded competitively for 10 projects in seven states under the BIG Tier II subprogram. The Service will also release $4 million to fund 33 projects in 23 states, commonwealths and territories under the BIG Tier I subprogram. States and their partners will provide more than $16 million in non-federal matching funds toward these projects. These grants are awarded on an annual basis. A full list of projects and funding can be found here.

Funding for the BIG program comes from the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund. Since its inception in 2000, the BIG program has awarded $194 million to projects for large transient recreational boats, including the construction of more than 5,000 berths for boaters across most states and U.S. territories.

BIG funds support a wide variety of infrastructure features that add to the safety and enjoyment of America’s waters. These features include restrooms, bulkheads, day docks, dinghy docks, transient slips, mooring buoys, floating docks and fixed piers, dockside water supplies, marine fueling stations, and navigational aids such as channel markers.

RBFF Agreement

Like the BIG program, this agreement is funded through the Sport Fishing and Boating Trust Fund. In FY 2017, this trust fund provided $349.4 million in sport fish restoration funds to states, insular areas and the District of Columbia to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, their habitats, sport fishing and recreational boating opportunities.

RBFF was selected as the grant recipient due to its extensive experience and proven success in marketing, outreach and education to increase angling and boating in the United States. Since its inception in 1998, RBFF has spearheaded innovative national outreach and education programs to promote fishing and boating and to educate the public on its conservation benefits.

RBFF’s work has had impact on many levels. For example, RBFF launched its 60 in 60 campaign in 2016, which seeks to reach 60 million anglers in 60 months. The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, which represents all 50 states, several federal agencies, and industry, has embraced this campaign and is working with RBFF to reach this ambitious goal. In addition, First Catch Centers are being piloted to bring angling skills to new participants. Several of these will be on Department of the Interior lands in Pennsylvania and Texas (including at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, Laguna Atacosa National Wildlife Refuge, and Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery).