October 23, 2019

A Leading-Edge Method of Funding Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

While it would appear my cries over the years to separate non game functions at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) from the game functions is never going to happen, perhaps it’s time to get creative and think up ways in which better funding can be accomplished without having to jump into bed with environmental and animal rights groups falsely believing we are all in this together with the same goals for the future as some sportsmen have been suckered into believing.

Historic accounts support the notion that, while initially the quaint partnership between hunting and fishing and environmentalists might work, they seldom do. If you think yours is working, give it time. For a most recent example of how environmentalism and the filth of money and the hunting community cannot and will not ever get along, the Olaus Murie family has notified the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (a very moderate conservation organization) that it will no longer provide funding for awards because of the RMEF’s stance of gray wolves. To read the complete story, follow this link.

But this is not the subject of this article. Make no mistake about it, MDIFW, like so many other fish and game departments, have chosen to and/or are being forced away from game management of game species and into preserving non game species for such things as bird watching, or simple wildlife viewing. Each of these activities directly draws resources away from game programs. The result of this attenuation of resources can be seen in a whitetail deer herd that is hurting badly in many parts of the state.

To date, the majority of funding for the MDIFW has come from license buyers and excise taxes collected from the sale of certain sporting goods and meted back out to the states according to some contrived formula partly based on how many licenses are sold. What has transpired is license buyers have been robbed and their monies used for programs many of them have little no interest in. We have also seen for decades now, those people enjoying the investment dollars of outdoor sportsmen and not anteing up one dime for that enjoyment.

Some have suggested that it is time to begin funding MDIFW out of general taxation. While this may appear as a simple solution to a complex problem, it presents a couple of major issues. One issue will be representation. With the demands for general taxation to fund MDIFW will also come the demands that environmentalists want representation on fish and wildlife boards and ultimately the commissioner’s job, appointed by the Governor.

The second issue is the equitableness of such a move. It would be no more fair to ask general taxpayers to fund all hunting, trapping and fishing activities than it would be to ask all hunters, trappers and fishermen to fund all outdoor activities. Therefore, we need some creativeness and so, I have been giving this some thought. I would like to share with you some of my ideas and look forward to your comments and feedback. I’m looking for positive ways to make this beneficial for everyone not all the reasons nothing will work.

As hunters are required to purchase varying licenses for the activities they wish to indulge in, so too should outdoor recreationalists. The same can be said for fishing and trapping licenses. After all, wasn’t the need for license fees to offset the costs of management and maintenance of species, etc. in order to provide opportunities for the sportsmen?

I suggest that certain outdoor activities be grouped into categories that will work together. For instance, hiking and bird watching could go hand in hand. That could require a license and fee. We could label it a color or letter. Another license might be for boating and boat access use. General wildlife watching might be a tough one but at least we could implement a requirement that anyone accessing any state-owned land must possess a license in order to view wildlife, hike, boat, etc. on that land. Cost of such licenses would be determined against the cost of what is being done presently to ensure that people have access to land for hiking, bird watching, boating, etc., i.e. the cost of building and maintaining boat and water access probably outweighs that of bird watching interests.

The first hurdle that will stump many will be the fact of how you require people to buy these licenses and then enforce the requirement to have it to participate. Granted it would be essentially impossible to do. Much like the “volunteer” but not so voluntary pay to use areas where people are supposed to stuff money in a pipe anchored in concrete, not all people actually pay but some do. Some money is better than no money and perhaps over time more and more people will see the benefits and be more willing to pay. Those not willing to pay will always run the risk of being caught participating without a license.

It’s time for the freeloaders to pay. I am required to pay more than my share to participate and so should all others. Each should pay for what they are interested in doing much the same way that I am for hunting, others are for fishing and trapping. Let’s end the foolishness of trying to convince the people that everyone should pay something, even if they never take advantage, and start at the beginning with a program that begins generating some extra revenue.

Once this programs has been implemented, the MDIFW will be required to annually present a very detailed report of who paid what and for how much and exactly where every dollar taken in went. A very necessary part of this program that will help make it work is that there must be absolute restrictions and separation of each license tag revenues. They must be collected separately and spent separately while being accounted for separately. That should not be a difficult thing to do and will help people better see the benefits of how their money is being spent and that a kayaker isn’t funding bird watching without choice to do so. This will generate more interest in people willing to pay their fair share.

Please present your ideas below in the comment section.

Share