Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

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‘Blackout’ looms for N.Y. sportsmen

Albany — A switchover from DEC’s current sporting license sales system to a new automated offering will necessitate a blackout of the system, likely in the coming days.

During that time, sportsmen and women won’t be able to purchase licenses or report their deer or bear harvests, DEC officials said in an effort to alert hunters, anglers and trappers to the impending blackout.

At press time, no date had been set for the blackout period as DEC and the new license system contractor, Accela, iron out various issues ahead of the transfer of about two years’ worth of data from the current Verizon system.

“We’re running through various scenarios right now,” DEC assistant director of fish, wildlife and marine resources Doug Stang said late last month. “It’s really difficult to say how long the system will be down. Obviously, we’re trying to minimize that period.”

DEC officials held a telephone conference with the media late last month in an effort to get the word out to sportsmen of the coming blackout. There will be no opportunity for sporting license sales during that period – including lifetime licenses often purchased as Christmas gifts. “Folks shouldn’t wait until the last minute,” Stang said.

Harvest reporting will also be unavailable during the blackout. That means successful big-game hunters will be unable to report their kills during the blackout. By law, those harvest reports must be made within seven days, but officials said hunters will be given a grace period due to the blackout.

“But we don’t want people to forget about reporting their harvest,” Stang said.

The blackout will likely come during the Westchester and Suffolk county regular (bowhunting) deer seasons, which run through Dec. 31.

The changeover to a new system is the product of the state’s Shared Services Initiative, a plan introduced by then-Gov. David Paterson. All state agencies will eventually operate under a single E-licensing system, and with Verizon’s contract with DEC ending Dec. 31 Accela is developing what Stang called a “stepping stone” as they move into E-licensing, which will also be handled by Accela.

While the state liquor authority has already gone to the new system, and “a couple other agencies” with fewer license offerings has as well, Stang said the DEC move will be by far the largest switchover to date.

It’s happening despite some overwhelming logistical challenges that have DEC officials concerned heading into the switchover.

At the Nov. 12 meeting of the state’s Conservation Fund Advisory Board, Stang said testing efforts were ongoing, with Accela staff on site at DEC’s Albany headquarters.

Stang has praised Accela staffers for their efforts, but also said last month “there are still bugs out there (in the new system). We’re working through it the best we can.”

“Accela is very excited and honored to be working with the state of New York on this important and groundbreaking project,” said Maury Blackman, Accela CEO and President in a 2012 news release. “From helping Indianapolis quickly set up vendor licensing during this past year’s Super Bowl; to debuting online plan review in Sacramento, Calif., or deploying a wide array of mobile apps, the Accela Automation platform is setting the standard for innovation with government agencies of all sizes.” 

DEC is also working with license-selling agents across the state in training on the new system. Those efforts have at times been stalled by technical glitches as the system continues to be developed and tested.

Previously, DEC officials said sportsmen shouldn’t notice any difference between the current DECALS online license system and the E-licensing system.

The “go live” date for the new system won’t come at a time when sporting license sales are brisk. That’s good news for DEC and Accela as they work out the kinks in the new system.

Typically, sporting license sales surge in the spring ahead of the statewide trout season kickoff, and in August when license sales for the new hunting season begin.

Despite reports to the contrary, there is no link between the E-licensing move and the sporting license structuring set to take effect in February 2014.

Stang said the new license fee structure “complicates it a bit, since it adds a series of licenses, but will ultimately lead to a simpler structure.”

Previous estimates have indicated it will cost the DEC nearly $1 million annually to operate the new system once it’s up and running.

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