A message from NH Fish and Game Director Lee E. Perry
Dear Conservation Partners and Interested Citizens:
During the past couple of weeks, you may have heard that the N.H. Fish and Game Department may soon be asking the Legislature to increase recreational fees in order to avoid a fiscal crisis. Some readers have assumed that decisions have been made and that a formal proposal has been prepared. This is not the case.
The purpose of this message is to provide you with some background relating to this issue and a status report on our efforts to find a way to fund continued protection and enjoyment of New Hampshire's outdoors and its diverse wildlife populations.
A self-funded agency...
...the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department gets more than half of its budget from sales of hunting and fishing licenses and permits. About a third of Fish and Game's operating funds come from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by way of the Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Program - an excise tax on hunting and fishing equipment and motorboat fuels. , Except for a $50,000 matching grant for conserving nongame wildlife species, out of a budget of $25 million, the agency does not receive General Fund money.
As guardian of ...
...the state's fish, wildlife, and marine resources, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department works in partnership with the public to:
- Conserve, manage and protect these resources and
- Inform and educate the public about these resources;
- Provide the public with opportunities to use and appreciate these resources.
While the historical focus of Department programs has been restoring and maintaining game species and commercial and sport fisheries, the Department provides many secondary benefits, such as:
- addressing all fish and wildlife issues;
- enforcing all fish and wildlife laws;
- providing aquatic, marine and upland habitat for
fish and wildlife;
- providing conservation information and education
programs to people;
- administering the OHRV program; and
- searching for and rescuing injured or lost people.
Our work affects more than New Hampshire's natural resources and the many people who engage in outdoor related activities; it also affects people who operate businesses, which depend on hunting, fishing, other fish and wildlife related activities and off highway vehicle use. In turn, local, state and national economies benefit. It also touches everyone who values the natural beauty and wild places of our state.
Fish and Game staff...
...are currently finishing New Hampshire's Wildlife Action Plan, to be submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the end of this month, which details the needs of more than 100 N.H. wildlife "species of concern" and more than 20 rare habitats. The Plan has been developed in partnership with hundreds of individuals and organizations, using the best science available. It provides comprehensive strategies, including multi-level approaches to air and water quality improvement, to ensure that our fish and wildlife continue to thrive in New Hampshire.
Implementing the Wildlife Action Plan, which may be the most important thing we and our fellow wildlife agencies can do in the decades to come, is going to cost money. The alternative to implementing the Plan is to continue to lose thousands of acres of important wildlife habitat every year, and to risk losing species that are vital to New Hampshire's "web of life." No one wants to see that happen, but it is a possibility if Fish and Game's staff and programs are cut to balance our shrinking budget.
Fish and Game is currently looking at a budget shortfall...
...starting in July of 2007. There are many reasons. The cost of doing business -- from raising fish, to keeping common species common, to investigating wildlife crimes, to providing access to woods and waters, to training teachers to teach their students about New Hampshire's wildlife and ecosystems -- goes up with inflation. A growing population, putting more pressure on the state's natural resources each year, challenges our ability to sustain existing services and to meet new needs for wildlife and their habitats.
Simple math shows that something needs to change in order to ensure reliable funding to continue our good work for the wildlife and people of New Hampshire in the future.
In the past, the solution has been to raise license fees. That's not a viable option now. Participation rates for both hunters and anglers are on the decline in New Hampshire and nationally. For the first time, our surveys of people who no longer hunt or fish indicate that the "price of the license" is a major reason they no longer participate in hunting or fishing.
To avoid any increase in fees or requests for supplemental funding during the past two fiscal years, we have taken steps to both save money and increase revenue. While we have realized some savings and raised some additional revenue through marketing and improved investment strategies, we have been unable to offset shortages resulting from fewer licenses sold, lower interest earnings and the increased cost of doing business. In FY 2008, we will have reached the point that, even with savings and conservative spending, the budget will no longer cover the Department's daily operating expenses.
In the future, it is unlikely that we will be able to rely on hunters and anglers to provide the revenue necessary to sustain existing programs or meet the challenges posed by a growing population and increased human development.
Although many people donate to fish and wildlife conservation
through the conservation license plate program and annual donations, we
cannot expect these funding strategies to fill the void.
There's no easy solution...
...to the challenges at hand. That's why, in addition to working as hard as ever to make sure that hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers can continue to enjoy all that wild New Hampshire has to offer, we're also seeking creative solutions to the budget shortfalls that we know are coming. We're having conversations with the Governor's office, New Hampshire State Legislators and the Fish and Game Commission, as well as caring individuals and other conservation leaders in the state, about identifying multiple workable strategies to ensure our future success.
There are no specific proposals yet...
We are collecting and evaluating ideas for shoring
up and expanding Fish and Game's financial support. In the meantime, people
who care about New Hampshire's wildlife and wildlife habitats can help
by buying a fishing license each year, even if they don't plan to fish;
purchasing a conservation license plate; or donating directly to the Nongame
Thank you for supporting your New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. Improving Fish and Game's funding situation is the only way to ensure that everyone will continue to have access to wild places and wild things over the long haul. After all, it's not just anglers and hunters who benefit from the work that Fish and Game does -- it's all of us.
If you have a funding idea you'd like to share, please send it to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lee E. Perry
N.H. Fish and Game