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March 5, 2007

Director Lee Perry Provides Budget Update on Fish and Game Funding

CONCORD, N.H. -- The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department made its budget presentation to the House Finance Committee on March 5, providing a brief history of the financial issues faced by the Department and reviewing Fish and Game's budget request in comparison to the proposed budget that is currently before the Finance Committee.

"Last summer, Fish and Game submitted a biennial budget that would have kept the Department's spending at roughly 2006 levels through FY 2009," said Lee Perry, Executive Director at Fish and Game. "Even that minimal budget would require $1.6 million in General Funds to balance it without staff reductions. Separate legislative proposals were submitted to raise money to cover inflation or other cost increases."

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Susan Almy testified at the hearing, reporting that, in the opinion of her Committee, Fish and Game needs some financial help.

"We are receiving positive comments, but a solution to our financial problems has not yet been found," said Perry.

The proposed budget now before the House Finance Committee does not include General Funds for Fish and Game and instead proposes to balance the Fish and Game Department's budget by further cutting operating expenses, eliminating vacant positions and raising $250,000 in new revenue by auctioning moose hunting permits.

"The reductions affect operations such as fish stocking, fish and game biological work, law enforcement, conservation information and education activities and support services," said Perry. "Statistics received from Vermont and Maine suggest that the anticipated revenue from the auctioning of moose permits is unattainable."

Some cuts in the proposed budget meant to save Fish and Game dollars actually cut federal and other dollars, resulting in fewer savings than anticipated. "If this budget is adopted as proposed, services will be cut and unrestricted fish and game funds will be depleted before the end of the biennium, leaving an unbalanced budget and no cash reserve to absorb unanticipated or other costs such as a new collective bargaining agreement or vehicle replacements," said Perry.

"As soon as we became aware of these issues, I notified Governor Lynch and we are continuing to work with him and his staff to address these issues," Perry said. Several remedies under discussion to balance the budget include providing General Funds to help pay for Fish and Game search and rescue activities, consideration of alternate revenue sources to replace the anticipated shortfall in funding from the moose auction and restoring federal and other funds that were inadvertently eliminated in the budget.

"I asked the House Finance Committee for their help in finding a solution," said Perry. "I remain optimistic and confident that working together with the Governor and the Legislature we will find the money that is necessary to keep the Department strong, effective and able to serve the people and wildlife of our state."

The Fish and Game Department budget will now undergo further work in a Finance subcommittee, with a work session scheduled with Division II on March 12.

For more information and updates on the Fish and Game Department's funding situation, click here.

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