The Forest Society has long contended the Department has been chronically under-funded. Our concerns are informed by a 2008 Legislative Budget Assistant’s performance audit. This report noted how 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 the unstable level in sales of fishing and hunting licenses (a primary revenue source for the Department), has adversely affected Fish and Game’s capacity to carry out all of its duties.
The Fish & Game Department must make an effort to address these issues by convening the hunting and fishing communities with other stakeholder groups with an interest in the Public Trust responsibilities legislatively delegated to the Department. A collaborative approach to solving the Department’s structural deficit is critical to meeting the challenge the Department is facing.
The Forest Society believes that the outcome of such a collaboration should include:
- A consensus that the Fish and Game Department needs more revenue, less delegated responsibilities, or a combination of both to address its deficit
- The identification of specific steps to strengthen and sustain the Department’s capacity to fulfill its Public Trust obligations.
- The support of the Governor and Legislative leaders for a process that will resolve this deficit for the long term
- An agreement among all stakeholders to actively join in and advance the advocacy efforts necessary to secure the financial needs of the Department.