September 23, 2019

Editorial: Raising fees is no way to fund Fish and Game

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*Editor’s Note* – It is not my intention, at this time anyway, to debate what is the best way to fund New Hampshire’s fish and game department. There is, however, a couple of issues in the linked-to editorial that I wish to add some clarity, if not corrections, so that readers can more accurately decide for themselves.

The author states how that raising license fees will drive hunters away from the sport, thus leaving the department with fewer licenses, i.e. revenue, and the loss in revenue would be greater than the projected increase in revenue from a license fee hike.

Personally, I reject license fee increases without first a good and accurate accounting of every penny being spent. There is an historic accounting that should be mentioned concerning this claim. Historically, the raising of license fees, has shown that in the short term, there may be a decrease in license purchases, thus participation in hunting. In the long run, it has little or no effect unless the increase is unrealistically too high.

New Hampshire’s proposal is to raise the fee from $33.00 annually to $43.00. The state claims it hasn’t raised rates since 2003. From that perspective perhaps a $10 increase isn’t “too” high, but then again, it makes New Hampshire one of the most costly licenses to purchase compared nationally.

The point here is that a flat claim that raising license fees diminishes the number of hunters and thus there’s a loss of revenue, is not completely accurate when factoring in long-term demographics.

The second issue has to do with the author’s claim that, ”¬†Cultural changes and the increased development of forests and agricultural lands have caused a decline in the sale of hunting licenses.” At the same time the author states that in New Hampshire license sales have remained flat. According to the National Survey of Hunting, Fishing and Wildlife (2011 edition), hunting licenses for that year totaled 13.7 million (nationally), as compared to 12.5 million in 2006.

New Hampshire license purchases from the years 1996 – 2011, according to the same report, shows a continued decrease. Perhaps New Hampshire has a game management problem that’s not necessarily going to be cured with more money. In addition, further evaluation of reasons given that hunters stopped hunting, shows the number one reason being lack of time, followed closely by lack of access to huntable land.

Generally speaking, revenue shortfalls with fish and game departments come as a result of increases in pay, benefits and retirement to employees. Seldom does any increase in revenue from any source directly result in the improvement of wildlife management. Maybe improved management would cure the revenue problem.

I am opposed to funding fish and game departments with general taxation money. However, this author’s suggestion that a portion of taxes collected from the sale of targeted hunting/fishing products, seems worthy of further discussion.

The latest proposal by the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game to raise license fees to combat its perennial budget shortfall will add to that collection of artifacts. It will also cost the state more money than it nets for one of the only self-funded departments of its kind.

Source: Editorial: Raising fees is no way to fund Fish and Game | Concord Monitor

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