US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has announced a US$60m cooperative agreement with the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) to help “retain and recruit” recreational anglers and boaters of all ages.

Zinke also announced US$14m in Boating Infrastructure Grants (BIG) to support water-related outdoor recreation by improving facilities for large transient recreational boats across the US.

Zinke made the announcement yesterday at an event called 'Saluting the Nation’s Governors as Champions of the Great Outdoors'. It was hosted by The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, which the NMMA helped form last summer.

“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,” said Zinke at the gathering. “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, US$12m-per-year RBFF agreement will allow the US 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 American Sportfishing Association said that fishing participation has increased by 20% over the last 10 years.

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. Nearly US$10m will be awarded for 10 projects in seven states under the BIG Tier II subprogram. The Service will also release US$4m to fund 33 projects in 23 states, commonwealths and territories under the BIG Tier I subprogram.

Funding for the BIG program comes from the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, which levies taxes on marine fuel and sportfishing products. Since its inception in 2000, the BIG program has awarded US$194m to projects for large transient recreational boats, including the construction of more than 5,000 berths for boaters across most US states and territories.

In 2017, this fund provided US$349.4m 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. RBFF launched its 60 in 60 campaign in 2016, which seeks to reach 60 million anglers in 60 months.