August 5, 2020

Once Again Another State Struggling To Fund Fish And Game

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It’s becoming an old story with no ending – almost like a “Groundhog’s Day” repetitive saga that nobody wants to find a cure for. New Hampshire has a shortfall in its budget and doesn’t know where it will get its money to cover expenses. Most are quick to blame it on the reduction of hunters and fishermen buying licenses. Selling fewer licenses does play a role but it is minor, in my opinion.

An editorial running in the Concord Monitor puts out some interesting facts that explains some of the problem.

This year, New Hampshire’s general fund will spend roughly $1.3 billion or $1,020 for every resident. Of that $1,020, $33 will go for resource protection and conservation. Of that $33, the Department of Fish and Game gets 3.8 cents.

When any state has a fish and game department that gets only 3.8 cents per person to conduct the business they are required to do, you don’t have to be a mathmetician to realize ends won’t meet. Generally speaking, most fish and game departments are asked to manage wildlife, police the woods, lakes, roads and anywhere there is recreation, perform search and rescue, build and maintain boat launches and a myriad of other tasks, all on a budget supplied by license fees. The percentage of money the department gets compared to the vast numbers of residents and non-residents it affects is out of line.

Users should pay but putting the burden of all of this onto the hunter, trapper and fishermen isn’t working because what fish and game is being asked to do has increased disproportionately to the number of users. So, what can be done?

There is a world of choices available but for some reason the lawmakers don’t want to tackle the problem and resolve it. The answer always seems to be to raise the price of licenses. This should change. If lawmakers aren’t interested in finding better ways to fund fish and game departments, then they need to shift at least some of what they are being asked to do to other departments, like search and rescue. Let’s face it, most often search and rescue is called on to go back into the wilds or onto the top of a mountain to rescue a lost or injured hiker. What fees has this hiker paid to help offset the cost of search and rescue? None directly but more than likely before that hiker got lost, they probably spent some money on gasoline, food, gear, and maybe even some lodging. Wouldn’t it seem feasible to take a share of the taxes collected from the sale of these items to cover the cost of search and rescue?

This is really no-brainer stuff but lawmakers and businesses get hung up on how raising or reappropriating tax monies is going to affect tourism. I agree that adding taxes to tourism related attractions can stifle business but so can the thoughts of traveling to a state to hunt, fish, hike, wildlife watch, etc. where there is no money to provide a quality experience.

Fish and game has to be funded for what the lawmakers and the demands of the public are requiring them to do. It is the responsibility of the legislature to find the appropriate ways to fund it. Just get it done. Personally, I am for funding fish and game with license fees from fishing and hunting. That means all the other chores dumped on the departments should be moved to other entities of the state to be run. I think a fish and game department can be best operated when its focus is on exactly what its name says, fish and game.

Tom Remington

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