During the 2018 session, the New Hampshire Legislature passed Senate Bill 48, legislation to establish a commission to study the efficiency and effectiveness of Fish and Game Department. Governor Sununu named Forest Society staffer Matt Leahy to represent the land conservation community on this commission.
Because we have long contended the Department has been chronically under-funded, we supported the creation of this study commission. As noted in a 2008 Legislative Budget Assistant’s performance audit, over time the Department has shifted from an agency primarily responsible for fish, game, and fur-bearing animals to one that is responsible for all wildlife, as well as public boat access, search and rescue, and enforcement of laws governing off-highway recreational vehicles (OHRV) and snowmobiles. These increased responsibilities, coupled with on-going budget constraints, has heightened our concerns with Fish and Game’s capacity to carry out all of its duties. Click HERE to read a joint letter in support of Senate Bill 48 from the Society for the Protection of NH Forests, The Nature Conservancy, Appalachian Mountain Club, NH Lakes Association, and NH Audubon. Click HERE for the full roster of the members of the Study Commission.
Any efforts to address the issues facing the Department must bring together the hunting and fishing communities with those stakeholders interested in Fish and Game’s responsibilities beyond stewardship of fisheries and game species. The process outlined in SB 48 will facilitate this collaborative process needed to focus on these challenges.
Among the outcomes we believe the Study Commission should accomplish are:
- A consensus among Commission members on the primary point that the Fish and Game Department’s operating budget does not match the resources it needs.
- The identification of specific steps to strengthen and sustain the Department’s capacity to fulfill its Public Trust obligations.
- The identification of key legislators who will lead the efforts at the State House to meet that goal.
- An agreement among Commission members to join in the advocacy efforts to advance the action steps.