by Rhonda Engman
This article is an attempt to explain how New York State's fish
and wildlife programs are funded. This is an enormously complex and
messy affair that discriminates against the non-consumptive "user" and,
in the process, discriminates against "non-game" animals.
If you read this and still scratch your head saying that the funding
doesn't make sense, don't worry. It's not meant to. It's only meant
to serve the consumptive public and that's all that counts. Here
The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is broken
up into numerous divisions, including the Division of Fish and Wildlife.
Among its many duties, the DEC is mandated by law to "Promote
and coordinate management of water, land, fish, wildlife, and air
resources to assure their protection, enhancement, provision, allocation,
and balanced utilization consistent with the environmental policy
of the state..." (If our "air resources" should ever
be in short supply, I have no idea how the DEC will "allocate" them,
but let's not worry about that now.)
The Division of Fish and Wildlife has received funding from the
following sources: The Conservation Fund, federal aid, the General
Fund, environmental enforcement, and marine resources. During the
1991-92 fiscal year, the last year for which there are statistics,
the total from these sources was 57.6 million. Environmental enforcement
and marine resources combined totaled only $3.6 million and play
only a negligible part in the whole. The other three sources are
the most important and will be discussed in detail there.
All state wildlife agencies are recipients of federal money through
the Pittman- Robertson and Dingell-Johnson acts. Pittman-Robertson
money must be used for wildlife restoration and hunter education.
Dingell-Johnson money must be used for sports fish restoration. Where
does this money come from?
Pittman-Robertson money is an eleven- percent excise tax on long
guns and ammunition, and a ten-percent excise tax on pistols and
revolvers and an eleven- percent excise tax on certain archery equipment
paid by the manufacturer or importer to the federal government.
The money paid by the federal government to each state is
based on the number of hunting licenses sold in that state.
In the case of Dingell-Johnson money, this is a ten-percent excise
tax on fishing equipment and a three-percent excise tax on electric
trolling motors and sonar fish finders. This year, the Wallop-Breaux
Law will require that a portion of the federal motorboat fuels tax
and import duties on fishing tackle and pleasure boats also be dedicated
to sports fish restoration. The return to each state is based
on the number of fishing licenses sold in that state.
Obviously, there are many buyers of guns or boats who don't hunt
or fish, but the taxes on their equipment go to the consumptive user.
During the 1991-92 fiscal year federal money going to NYS
was $7.2 million.
THE CONSERVATION FUND:
The Conservation Fund is a dedicated fund used solely for fish and
wildlife programs. The money in the Conservation Fund comes from
the sale of resident and nonresident hunting, fishing, and trapping.
licenses: fines (when a hunter is fined, the money is returned to
the Conservation Fund, even if the hunter is fined for trespassing
on your posted property or committing some other non-wildlife-related
EnCon violation); fees; the sale of books, migratory bird stamps,
and other materials Return a Gift to Wildlife monies (RAGTW); interest
on investments, particularly from RAGTW; and other minor sources. This
totaled $34.7 million during fiscal year 1991-92.
THE GENERAL FUND:
The General Fund is the state's general account, comprised mostly
of your tax dollars. It pays for toilet paper, secretarial services,
construction, some vehicles, land acquisition from environmental
bonds, etc.-the things we might call "essential services."During
1991-92 the portion going to Fish and Wildlife programs amounted
to about $12 million.
Although the DEC is constantly telling people hunters pay for the
majority of fish and wildlife programs, as you can see they paid
for only 60.2% of the programs. In previous years when the Environmental
Bond Act brought much more money in for land acquisition, their contribution
was less than half.
THE CONSERVATION FUND ADVISORY COUNCIL:
The CFAC is mandated by law which states, among other things, that
members must possess a valid hunting, fishing, or trapping license.
The purpose of the CFAC is to advise the DEC on how to use the money
in the Conservation Fund.
The CFAC meets with DEC officials once a month, the meetings sometimes
lasting many hours. (The November 1993 meeting lasted more than five
hours.) To make a long and complicated story short, if you were to
read the minutes of CFAC meetings, you would see that CFAC has
basically taken control of all funding sources. including the monies
from the General Fund, and tries to control the running of the
Division of Fish and Wildlife. In fact, at one recent meeting.
the president of the CFAC made the Division's three Bureau chiefs
show him their hunting licenses, and they did. (I'm not making this
up. it's in the minutes.)
THE NEW YORK STATE CONSERVATION COUNCIL:
Despite its name, the NYSCC is a dedicated hunting club, claiming
to have about 300,000 members. By law one of the members of the NYSCC
must be represented on the CFAC. This allows NYSCC to have direct
control over the funding of wildlife programs and over the Division.
NYSCC and the CFAC rarely disagree on issues. They were both in favor
of Sunday hunting, allowing 12 year-olds to hunt, the venison bill,
the legalization of the crossbow, and on and on.
GOOD OL' BOY NETWORK:
If you met with DEC officials as I do, you'd notice one very odd
thing. The meetings are always male DEC officials meeting with female
animal rights activists. Let me assure you that the gender gap is
alive and well in the DEC.
There are no female deputy commissioners. There are only three assistant
commissioners-Solid Public Affairs, and Human Resources. hi tile
Division of Fish and Wildlife, there are almost no female biologists.
We will never. get anywhere unless we insist that the DEC start hiring
more women--particularly for upper level positions within the DEC
and for non-clerical positions within the Division of Fish and Wildlife.
Where do you fit in? Well, that depends. Ken Wich, the director
of the Division of Fish and Wildlife, claims non-consumptive "users" have
access to the Division through letters and meetings that they can
request. When I asked him if he would be amenable to changing the
composition of the CFAC to include citizens who didn't hunt, fish,
or trap, he said, "No."
If you look at the statistics, the number of consumptive users is
declining, despite DEC's various attempts to increase those numbers.
For example, the hunting age was lowered to 12 a couple of years
ago. The CFAC then authorized an increase in the cost of most licenses
in an attempt to make up for the decline in licenses sold. But that
didn't work. So, come August 1993, the Division ran out of money
and was unable to pay its employees until a special allocation from
the General Fund brought the Division out of the red.
Governor Cuomo is now proposing that more money come out
of the General Fund on a regular basis and that a special five-cent,
non-refundable bottle tax be charged, the revenue from which would
go to the Conservation Fund.
The CFAC wants to initiate user fees so that hikers and other
non-consumptive users would put money into the Conservation Fund. This
really irritated me because I thought it impertinent of the CFAC
to tell the DEC how non-consumptive users should pay for wildlife
programs without consulting us. So, I wrote to the DEC Deputy Commissioner
Bob Bendick and asked him to hold joint meetings and workshops
attended by all interested parties so that everyone could decide
how the state's fish and wildlife programs will be funded. No response
from Bendick as of yet.
HERE'S WHAT I PROPOSE:
By law, all New Yorkers are stewards of the wildlife in
this state. We should all be responsible for the well-being of
New York's wildlife on an equal basis with equal access to the
DEC and equal input on how wildlife programs are run. I
propose that a dollar amount he deducted from the General Fund
based on the number of people in the state. In other words, let's
say there are 17 million people in the state, and we agree to deduct
annually $4 per person from the General Fund. That's $68 million.
The DEC would also sell licenses as it has always done, but this
money would be controlled by all interested citizens not by hunters. After
all, is there a group of licensed drivers which meets and determines
how car license money is spent? Of course not.
Every DEC employee I've proposed this to has liked, the idea. The
questions are: Will the hunters go for it and will the legislature
allow it? Only time will tell.
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO:
1) Send for a copy of the CFAC's fiscal report which comes out every
April 1. (Is there some coincidence that this is April Fool's Day?)
The report is free and available from the CFAC at the DEC's address,
5O Wolf Rd., Albany, NY 12233. (No coincidence there.) Keep current
with the CFAC and the DEC and what they're doing with your money
and your wildlife.
2) Write to Governor Cuomo and tell him that New York's wildlife
programs should be paid for by everyone equally and that everyone
should have equal representation concerning how the money for these
programs is spent. Cuomo's address is Executive Chambers, State Capitol,
Albany, NY 12224.
3) Write to the DEC's new commissioner, Langdon Marsh and insist
that the DEC hire more women for upper level DEC positions and non-clerical
positions within the Division of Fish and Wildlife.
Thanks for your help!
RONDA ENGMAN IS VICE PRESIDENT OF THE NEW YORK STATE COALITION FOR
ANIMALS (NYSCA). SHE CAN BE CONTACTED AT 571 SOUTH DANBY ROAD, SPENCER,
NY 14883; 607-589-4031.