When I learned that the Department of Environmental Conservation had decided to skip this year’s State Fair due to “budget problems,” I think my blood pressure must have risen by 40 points. And I get aggravated every time I think about it.
Those of you who have attended the fair probably know that the DEC has been an annual presence there, operating out of their special log building, ever since 1972 when the newly created and much larger DEC replaced the old NYS Conservation Department. Historically it’s been a great opportunity for DEC to promote, exhibit, teach about its function, sell sporting licenses and permits, and generally interact with fair-goers, especially sportsmen and women but also with all who visit the center. Basically it’s been great public relations, say nothing of services and sales of sporting licenses it provides.
In its statement the DEC said: "At a time when DEC is reducing staff and rationing its resources on a daily basis to maintain core functions, we cannot justify spending funds for the travel, shipping, supplies, rentals and other operational costs, nor can we afford to dedicate the many hours of staff time required for state fair operations." Say what? Core functions? Does that mean continue paying the salaries and benefits of its top-level executives and bureaucrats? By the way, how many of them would have been at the fair and present in the center anyway?
Sportsmen have continued to purchase licenses and permits (at an increased cost) to insure that their interests and applicable programs are maintained. But a major source of those license sales, the license sales booth at the State Fair that is manned by Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources (FWMR) personnel (not the top-level execs), is being terminated this year by FWMR in order to reduce expenses. In other words the DEC is telling us the financial cost for the effort to sell sporting licenses, the major source of Conservation Fund income, and to present a visible and positive public presence among fair-goers is simply not worth it? I suspect that if a large business corporation made a similar decision, their entire board of directors would be fired.