Revamped N.Y. license system ready for sales

Albany — DEC officials are confident sportsmen and license-selling agents will see smoother transactions as sporting licenses went on sale earlier this month.

A webinar with media members to show off the streamlined system ahead of the Aug. 10 kickoff of sporting license sales for 2015-16 detailed the progress in improving the widely criticized system.

“DEC talked to the sporting community and license-issuing agents and made significant improvements to the licensing system based on their feedback,” Acting DEC Commissioner Marc Gerstman said. “We applied the lessons learned from the difficulties.”

Similar improvements were made to the game harvest reporting system, officials said.

Dubbed “DEC 2.0,” DEC officials are hoping the license system improvements will make the buying process faster and easier for both sportsmen and selling agents.

The transition to the new E-licensing system – part of a Shared Services Initiative for all state governmental agencies – was anything but smooth, with problems that at times led to a system crash and frustration among license-issuing agents. Many agents opted to no longer sell sporting licenses, and the problems in part led to a steep decline in sales of hunting, fishing and trapping licenses.

Kevin Maloney, DEC’s license sales supervisor, said the improvements should be noticeable when license buying begins ahead of the fall hunting seasons.

And Gerstman said the improvements received solid reviews at a meeting of the New York Association of Town Clerks.

“We’re confident the new system will function well (when licenses go on sale Aug. 10),” he said during the webinar.

DEC and the staff from the New York State Office of Information Technology Services worked with contractors to make DEC’s sporting license-issuance and game harvest system “more user friendly and faster to enhance service to New York’s hunters, anglers and trappers. Two new user interfaces make selling licenses by license-issuing agents and purchases by online customers easier and more intuitive,” DEC officials said in a news release.

In developing the system improvements, DEC met with license-issuing agents and online customers to gather their suggestions. 

License issuing agents were most critical of the new system, contending it was too slow and time-consuming, as well as unreliable during times of peak traffic on the system due to high sales.

The new interfaces offer several new features, including one that allows license-issuing agents and online purchasers the ability to:

• readily access more information, such as the current licenses, privileges, permits and tags held, as well as the most recent Wildlife Management Units where the hunter successfully applied for deer management permits;

• easily update personal information, such as current address, to help ensure DEC’s information is up-to-date and the license is valid;

• move through fewer screens during the transaction process;

• sell multiple short-term fishing licenses;

• streamline game harvest reporting process; and

• report multiple harvests in one session.

New York State Conservation Council President Chuck Parker said license buyers and selling agents “can look forward to swifter, customer-friendly transactions going forward.”

Others were less enthusiastic.

Conservation Fund Advisory Board chairman Jason Kemper said while the board is pleased to see the improvements with the system, it “remains very concerned that the costs for these improvements will further erode the balance in the Conservation Fund and has requested this information numerous times. In addition, this licensing system does not provide the reporting and other features that it was contractually obligated to provide.”

DEC must now rebuild trust among license-selling agents – down to about 1,300 statewide from a maximum of 1,500 – and the sporting public on the heels of the system problems last season. Many agents dropped out of the license sales picture rather than deal with the new system as it limped forward.

“We’re gaining,” DEC assistant director of fish, wildlife and marine resources Doug Stang said of the work to add new agents.

License sales have in the past gone on sale in mid-August, but with the new license year rolled back to Sept. 1 (instead of Oct. 1) there was some hope among sportsmen licenses would be offered earlier as a result.

Stang said that could happen down the road, but this year several regulatory changes prompted DEC to maintain the mid-August sales kickoff.

Licenses and permits can be purchased at one of DEC’s license-issuing agents around the state, as well as by telephone and online. Stang said online sales account for less than 10 percent of overall sales.

But officials said the hunting and trapping regulations guides for the 2015-16 seasons won’t be immediately available for early license buyers. Stang said they should arrive at license outlets a few days after the Aug. 10 sales kickoff.

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