In case you havenít heard, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) said the Conservation Fund (CF) is running to the tune of a $11M deficit and an across-the-board increase in all hunting, fishing and trapping licenses and fees, both resident and non-resident, is critical to avoid major cuts in fish, wildlife and related programs and personnel from occurring. Some of the proposed fees appear at the end of this column.
The question many of us are asking is how activities that, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service report, generate over $3B in New York and $250M in State and local taxes be in such dire financial funding straits? Ever so slowly, the answers are beginning to surface, and high-level officials in Albany arenít going to like hearing them.
As most of us who have observed the birth and grand evolution of the NYSDEC that replaced the once successful NYS Department of Conservation in 1971, it was relatively easy to see that the programs that once fell exclusively under the jurisdiction of the old conservation agency that DEC replaced where being steadily deprioritized while environmental programs became leading characters. Almost from its beginning, many of the DECís commissioners and directors were appointed, not necessarily because of their knowledge and expertise, but because their views fell in stride with the current administrations at the time.
As DECís Albany offices became increasingly filled with eco-minded officials who cared little or nothing about sportsmen and womenís roles in conservation and natural resources, the programs that were once the very heart of New Yorkís natural resources conservation became increasingly irreverent to the decisions that guided the departmentís natural resource and conservation policies and funding. Never mind that hunting and fishing participants had historically paid their own way via licenses, fees and special taxes. Or that the billions of dollars generated by tourism depended heavily on natural resources, as do the many businesses that rely on tourism.