Lowered license fees may hit Conservation Fund
Let me say straight out: I’ve never heard anyone complain about the cost of a hunting or fishing license. If the cost of enjoying what New York has to offer in terms of hunting or fishing opportunities is too high then all the people I know who engage in either or both of these activities have kept that opinion to themselves.
On Feb. 1, nearly two million New Yorkers purchasing a new hunting or fishing license will pay less for the privilege of doing so because Gov. Coumo wants to stoke the state’s tourism industry, and that’s a good thing. But at what cost? Yes, the idea of reducing license fees has its appeal to some, but what will be the impact on our state’s conservation programs?
It’s no secret the sale of hunting and fishing licenses have been flat for some time, but it remains to be seen if reducing their cost by a few dollars means people will come flocking back to New York’s woods and streams in any great numbers any more than reducing the cost of a movie ticket by a dollar or two would fill an empty theater. The money generated by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses goes into the Conservation Fund and what the governor’s new fee structure does is to reduce the money going into that fund. So, we ask, how does that benefit New York’s sportsmen in the long term? Non-residents will see the steepest cuts in license fees, but these hunters and fishermen were coming to New York and paying the higher fees anyway. Only time will tell if reducing the fee for a non-resident fishing license by $20 will result in caravans of cars from Pennsylvania, Ohio or New Jersey heading up I-81.
The Conservation Fund pays for fish hatcheries and stocking programs, as well as the state’s pheasant stocking program. Not only that, the money in the fund also pays the salaries for those employed in the fish, wildlife and law enforcement divisions. Five years ago, the Conservation Fund was in the red but after hunting and fishing license fees were raised in 2009 and state spending cuts were enacted, the Fund is now in the black. The problem now is that rather than fund necessary programs, the state is using the money in the Fund to cover an additional number of environmental conservation officer’s salaries.
Fish hatcheries need vital improvements and there are very few sportsmen who will say we have enough conservation officers, so we ask, how is reducing the cost of hunting and fishing licenses going to benefit New York’s sportsmen? In our opinion, there wasn’t enough money in the Conservation Fund to support important and vital programs in the first place, so we fail to see how reducing the price of hunting and fishing licenses will benefit sportsmen or adequately finance vital programs. It appears the governor is robbing Peter to pay Paul.