Conservation Fund’s expenditures detailed

Albany – The state Conservation Fund’s deficit has – at least
temporarily – fallen by nearly $14 million over the past year, a
figure members of the New York State Conservation Council learned
last month as they got a detailed breakdown of the fund’s revenue
and spending.

The fund, which is used to pay for hunting, fishing and trapping
programs, has been running a deficit for years as license sales
dwindled and costs rose.

But efforts in recent years by conservation council members to
find out exactly where all of the money was going were stymied, in
part because they were told a full accounting of the fund wasn’t
easy to put together.

Charlie Hancock, chairman of CFAB, said members of CFAB often
ran into hurdles when trying to get full details of fund spending
through the state Division of the Budget.

“When we ask the DEC we get answers right away, but the place
where we have no clout is the budget office,” Hancock said. “We’d
like to have answers about where our money goes, but sometimes it
isn’t so simple.”

A shifting of 123 DEC law enforcement employee salaries from the
Conservation Fund to the state’s General Fund resulted in the
Conservation Fund’s deficit dropping from just under $18 million
last year to about $4 million earlier this year.

Hancock, though, said some or all of those positions could be
returned to the Conservation Fund, which means the need to find
more revenue is still urgent. Hunting and fishing license fee
increases are measures deemed likely in the near future.

The recent release of the revenues and spending in the 2007-08
Conservation Fund budget, presented through a PowerPoint
presentation at a recent meeting of sportsmen’s groups, came after
requests by the New York State Conservation Council for the
information as the debate raged over a proposal to close the DEC’s
only pheasant farm.

Harold Palmer, president of the council, said the extent of the
administrative costs paid by the Conservation Fund jumped out at
him, in particular costs related to studies performed by DEC staff
members and the travel they undertake for those efforts.

“Those travel costs add up,” he said.

A number of expenditures seemed notable.

For instance, the Conservation Fund was used for:

€ $1.49 million to rear and distribute hatchery fish.

€ Nearly $1.9 million for “supplies, contracts and travel in
support of fish and wildlife programs.”

€ $400,000 to “document rare species and communities.”

€ $254,776 for “public affairs and education tools.”

€ $127,588 for production and distribution of fishing
regulations guide and I LOVE NY fishing guide.

€ $86,297 for “salary and indirect of regional attorney.”

“It did highlight a couple of issues a lot of people were
unaware of with some of the appropriations,” Hancock said.

The DEC has pledged to give a more detailed breakdown next year,
Palmer said.

Conservation Fund’s expenditures
Click here for details.


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