Recently the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been accused of mismanagement in its administration of the . This story is complex and some news accounts have been inaccurate. We greatly value the long-time support of hunters, anglers, boaters and the outdoor industry for these essential conservation programs. In the interests of accuracy and fairness, we offer the following facts about this issue.
The Federal Aid programs, funded by sportsmen through excise taxes on hunting, fishing, and boating equipment and motor boat fuels, are commonly known as the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson/Wallop-Breaux programs. The Service distributes the funds annually to State fish and wildlife agencies. By law, the Service is entitled to retain up to 8 percent of the wildlife restoration funds and 6 percent of the sport fish funds for program administration.
The recent charges do not concern the funds being distributed to States (around $500 million annually) but rather how the Service uses its administrative portion of the money (about $31 million). A GAO audit found poor management practices in the Service^s Federal Aid division - problems the Service acknowledges and is working diligently to fix. While we acknowledge the management shortcomings, we strongly object to any implications of corruption or misuse of Federal Aid administrative funds. The House Resources Committee has held two hearings, but declined to hear testimony from Service witnesses. As the Service has not had the opportunity to respond publicly, we^d like outdoor writers to know:
* The Service did NOT use Federal Aid dollars for a grant to an anti-hunting group;
* Federal Aid does NOT pay more than half the overall administrative costs of the Service. (The actual figure is about 8 percent).
* The Director^s conservation fund, which has been termed a "slush fund" in some accounts, was actually being used to help fund National Fishing Week and other projects familiar to OWAA members and important to many state agencies.
* Hunter and angler dollars did NOT pay for wolf reintroduction, spotted owl preservation, and other such programs.
NOTE: The following letter responds to a request for information after a hearing on September 29, 1999 by the Committee on Resources of the House of Representatives.
October 13, 1999
Honorable George Miller
Ranking Minority Member
Committee on Resources
House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Mr. Miller:
Enclosed are the answers to the questions you asked in your October 4, 1999 letter regarding the use of administrative funds by the Federal Aid program.
You also requested us to review a table prepared by Republican staff members of the House Committee on Resources. The table in question was displayed at the September 29 hearing.
We believe the table, entitled Director^s Office Projects and Initiatives Funded with Dollars Diverted from GAS, clearly misrepresents the funding of these projects. Only one of the projects cited on the table, "Relocation Costs", was ever funded by General Administrative Services or GAS funding. The rest of the projects were funded by monies appropriated for Service-wide Administrative Support in the Resource Management appropriation, and received not a penny of Federal Aid money.
Under Service policy, General Administrative Services (GAS) accounts are established in the Service^s appropriation accounts other than Resource Management, such as Realty, Construction and Federal Aid. Attached is a chart that describes the projects cited in the Republican staff table and details the sources of funding utilized for each. These accounts are used to pay a calculated share of the Service^s centralized overhead and administrative costs. The Service receives a specific appropriation within the Resource Management appropriation to pay the overhead and administrative costs for programs funded in the Resource Management account.
Relocation costs were distributed to GAS accounts in FY 1994 on the basis that the Service decided to centrally fund the expenses of employees retiring under the buyout provisions authorized by Congress, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Office of Personnel Management. The decision to centrally fund these costs was due to the inordinate expense involved. Each qualified employee was to receive a $25,000 lump sum payment as well as payments for unutilized annual leave. In addition, qualified Senior Executive Service members were entitled to relocation costs incurred as a result of their retirement. These costs had to be borne within existing budgeted resources. As a result, the Service distributed a portion of these costs to each of its appropriations and funds.
I would again reiterate that none of these projects, other than the 1994 Relocation costs, were funded using GAS monies, and thus no Federal Aid administrative monies were used for these projects. I would appreciate your assistance in setting the record straight on this issue.
Jamie Rappaport Clark