What happened to sportsmen’s money?

As the “brain trusts” in Albany’s NYDEC and NYS Department of Budget (DOB) hack away on state programs and personnel in a desperate attempt to cover the $315M deficit hole they’ve buried the state in, the hatchet that cut down Rogers Environmental Center this week typified the alarming priority disregard being shown in the statewide cuts and also how the state’s sportsmen and women are being literally robbed of the funds they’ve voluntarily given to the state.

Just a couple of years ago, sporting license fees were increased across the board, and the resulting “windfall” was supposedly securely locked away in the state’s Conservation Fund (CF), by law to be used strictly for fish, wildlife and related conservation programs and projects that fell within the Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources division (FWMR) responsibility. Since then, only negative things have happened in FWMR – budget and personnel cuts and greatly curtailed program efficiency. So where did all the extra money in the CF go, and why is it now necessary to make drastic cuts on programs that were in essence already pared, but already paid for and supposedly safely protected in the CF?

While many state programs are primarily funded from the General Fund – derived from general taxes we all pay the state – those falling under the FWMR are funded by license, permit and special sporting goods taxes paid, not by the general public alone, but rather sportsmen and women, who also must pay general taxes in addition to what they give to the state and DEC for their ability to hunt, fish, trap and help DEC manage its renewable natural resources, such as deer, predators and potential pests Now they see the money they entrusted with the state for this seemingly has disappeared, to the point further cuts are now necessary.

If I can suggest an analogy: Let’s compare this to someone buying a season ticket to enjoy games played by their favorite sports team. The money is accepted, but when the fans reach the stadium or facility hosting the game, they’re turned away and told the games had been cancelled because the money had to be used for something else because of financial deficits there. In other words, you prepaid for something that you expected to get, but now is being taken away. Now your money is being used for something entirely different. Wouldn’t you be a tad upset?

This is basically what has happened to the thousands of license-buying sportsmen and women who willingly paid the state to provide proper programs and management of the fish, wildlife and related natural resources that produce opportunities for us to legally enjoy fishing, hunting and trapping while also being the primary tool and funding source that aids DEC in managing these renewable natural resources.

Sportsmen and women of New York have been robbed, and by the very people they entrusted with their “now disappearing” millions of dollars that was once the “dedicated” Conservation Fund, but now seems far less than dedicated than we were led to believe.

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