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Impacts to the NYS Conservation Fund

CFAB Correspondence

The following is a HTML version of the correspondence letter; a PDF version (30 KB) is also available to view.

January 19, 2012

Thomas Congdon
Assistant Secretary for Energy and Environment
Executive Chamber
Albany, NY 12224

RE: Impacts to the NYS Conservation Fund

Dear Mr. Congdon,

The Conservation Fund Advisory Board (CFAB) was pleased to see language placed in the Governor's proposed budget that appears to protect the Conservation Fund from being swept and not jeopardize the estimated $20 million in federal aid New York annually receives to assist with the fish and wildlife program in NYSDEC. As I stated in my conversations with yourself and Mr. Rosenthal, I urge you to get confirmation in writing from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service that the proposed budget language addresses the concerns raised and the federal aid is not in jeopardy of being lost so that we can pass this information on to the sporting community.

At the January 19th meeting of the CFAB, there was also considerable discussion of the Governor's budget proposal to shift 65 Environmental Conservation Officers from the General Fund to the Conservation Fund. The Board was also notified at their December meeting that 20 ECO's were moved on to the Conservation Fund.

As I have previously stated in my correspondence and conversations with the Governor's Office, the CFAB fully understands that a portion of the costs associated with the ECO's should be paid by the Conservation Fund. However, the board agreed that it is absolutely unacceptable that this administration continues to offload ECO's onto the Conservation Fund without being able to fill the numerous vacancies that exist within DEC's Division of Fish, Wildlife, and Marine Resources (DFWMR). The CFAB receives monthly updates on staffing levels within the DFWMR and the number of employees on the Conservation Fund.

Please review the information pulled from the Filled Position report [in the table below] when the license fee increase went into effect (8/2009) and the report from December 2011. It is clearly evident from the current staffing levels in the DFWMR that the level of service provided to sportsmen through their license fees has significantly decreased despite a significant license fee increase.

Filled Position Report
August 2009 December 2011
Total staff in the
Division of Fish, Wildlife and
Marine Resources (DFWMR)
412 349
Total DFWMR staff
on Conservation Fund
189 228
Total Department (DEC) staff
on Conservation Fund
203 259

The members of the CFAB re-emphasize the point that hunting, fishing and trapping community in New York State is the only interest group that funds the management of the resources that are important to them. Hunting, fishing and trapping license sales (1.5 million per year) generate approximately $47 million dollars per year and leverage millions more in federal aid as a direct result of the license sale revenue. In addition, hunting, fishing and trapping generates an estimated $2 billion to the state economy on a yearly basis, supporting thousands of jobs across New York.

It is evident from the information CFAB has received that the money collected from the sporting community is not being used in the manner it was intended to when the license fee increase was initiated. The CFAB will continue discussions on recommending a significant license fee decrease to spur participation in hunting, fishing, and trapping and foster the economic benefits derived from increased recreation activity. During Governor Cuomo's press conference (Aug. 2011) on the repeal of the Recreational Marine Fishing License, he made the point that the license fees were unfair and caused a negative impact to the local economy. Reduced Conservation Fund allocations have resulted in reduced fish and wildlife program delivery and a significant balance in the Conservation Fund. There is no need to carry this large balance with the current staffing levels in the Division of Fish, Wildlife, and Marine Resources so reduced revenues and reduced fees seem to be completely in order and are consistent with Governor Cuomo's messages.

The CFAB looks forward to working with the administration to resolve this issue.

Sincerely,

Jason Kemper
Chairman, NYS Conservation Fund Advisory Board

Cc:
Senate Environmental Conservation Committee
Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee
New York State Conservation Council
Conservation Alliance of New York
New York State Outdoor Writers Association

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