$20M could be withheld due to state budget’s Conservation
Fund ‘sweep’ language
Albany – New York is at risk of losing millions of dollars in
federal funding because of language in the state budget that would
allow the state to raid the Conservation Fund for uses other than
supporting the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has notified the state that
it might not forward $20 million in funding because of a budget
bill that would allow the Conservation Fund to be “swept.” (The
money comes from federal programs known as Pittman-Robertson,
Dingle-Johnson and Wallop-Breaux.)
Even though state officials say there are no plans to take money
from the Conservation Fund, the fact the money could be used for
purposes other than to support the state’s fish and wildlife
programs makes the state susceptible to the funding loss, said John
Organ, the U.S. F&W’s division chief for sport fish and
wildlife restoration for the Northeast.
“The state has to protect its hunter and angler license funds
from being diverted or used for any purpose other than
administration of the state fish and wildlife agency,” Organ
Organ said the federal government has asked for “clarification”
of the budget bill and said it’s too early to say whether the
federal money will be withheld.
“We will work with the state and it’s possible it might require
legislation to correct the language (in the bill),” Organ said.
“Hopefully that’s the direction it will go in and we won’t have to
shut the state off.”
That process could take weeks or longer, particularly if the
state Legislature needs to pass a bill to correct the language in
The Legislature was out of session for the summer as of July 15,
and likely will not return until the end of the summer or fall.
Calls to the DEC on the issue were referred to the state
Division of Budget.
Morris Peters, a spokesman for the Division of Budget, said the
state does not believe any federal funding will be lost.
He said the language in the budget that is being questioned was
put in place “several years ago” and allows the budget director to
do a “Conservation Fund sweep” but there are no plans to do so.
(The state did take money from the fund in the early 1990s for
non-DEC purposes, and later put back some of it.)
This matter focuses on a relatively obscure technicality,” he
said. “We do not believe federal penalties are warranted, or
likely, in regard to a sweep action that has never taken place and
is not contemplated for the future.”
Organ said other states have had the same issues in recent years
as budget problems become widespread and changes in government
result in leaders who aren’t aware of the federal funding
“It’s happening with more frequency because states are desperate
(for money) and you have turnover in the executive branch,” he
Most work the issues out without losing funding, though some
states have lost money, he said.