Governor Pataki Proposes to Increase Funding for Conservation and Recreation
3/13/2000 -- -- Contact: Nat Gillespie, Trout Unlimited's Catskills Coordinator, (607) 498 5960; firstname.lastname@example.org
March 13, 2000. Roscoe, N.Y. . . The New York State Council of Trout Unlimited, representing over 8,500 members from 35 chapters, along with TU's 117,000 nationwide members strongly support Governor Pataki's proposal to increase funding for conservation and recreation. Without an increase in funding to New York's Conservation Fund provided in Gov. Pataki's proposal, DEC's Division of Fish, Wildlife & Marine Resources will enter the "red zone" on accounting charts by 2001.
The proposed Article VII legislation would provide money via an increase in hunting, fishing, and trapping license fees for both residents and nonresidents, the creation of a $5 voluntary habitat stamp dedicated to habitat management and public access development, and other appropriations to both the General Fund and the Conservation Fund. The proposal also seeks to decrease operating costs by developing an automated sporting license issuance system.
Under its current financial regime, the Bureaus of Fisheries and Wildlife and other bureaus will be forced to cut more staff, delete additional programs, and reduce their management and protection of New York's invaluable natural resources. Millions of New Yorkers use, enjoy and depend on the State's natural resources for fishing, hunting, trapping and other activities, but fish and wildlife programs necessary for efficient, effective, science-based management are facing elimination.
"DEC trimmed any bureaucratic fat in belt-tightening exercises long ago; the erosion of its resources now represents loss of muscle and bone," stated Nat Gillespie, Trout Unlimited's Catskills Coordinator.
For example, the Bureau of Habitat, one of the four groups within the Division of Fish, Wildlife & Marine Resources, is charged with the mission statement, "To protect, maintain, enhance and restore ecosystems. " This bureau's activities play central roles in managing water and air quality, flood risk, stream bank erosion, and other issues of broad importance; yet Habitat has long been ignored in short-sighted cost-cutting. Instead of pro-active protection of fragile resources, the Bureau of Habitat is often left in the no-win, inefficient, crisis-management role of punishing violators and patching damage after it has occurred.
While the State has initiated an impressive series of recent land acquisitions, open staff positions remain unfilled for months and critical research, monitoring, compliance, and enforcement programs are curtailed.
Currently, over seventy New York waters now post fish consumption advisories due to toxic pollutants. Because of inadequate funding, DEC must resign itself to the difficult and demoralizing tasks of trying to do more with less while answering to irate property owners, tourists, hunters, and fishermen who see real declines in the quality of their land and waters.
Fish, wildlife and marine resources carry a high value to New Yorkers, beyond the obvious attraction to groups like Trout Unlimited. They support natural resource-based industries of local and regional importance that import money into the State and redistribute it from urban to rural areas. Trout Unlimited recently underwrote two socioeconomic studies of the Beaverkill/Willowemoc system and the Delaware River tailwaters that quantified the keystone roles these river systems play in local economies.
*In 1994, a year when angling visitation dropped to half of recent levels, fishing on the Beaverkill/Willowemoc Rivers still brought over $10 million to local businesses.
*In 1996, fishing on the Delaware tailwaters contributed $17.7 million of direct expenditures to local businesses, generated approximately $30 million of local economic activity, and supported 348 local jobs.
"The New York Assembly has long asked its agencies to run themselves as if they were businesses, yet the agency managing natural resources that are proven revenue producers remains under-funded," noted Russ Mosher, Vice President of the New York State Council of Tulut Unlimited's Conservation Fund. "Businesses invest in their ability to manage resources and optimize productivity; the Assembly doesn't, and it will get what it pays for."
Anglers, hunters, and trappers now face the unfortunate decision of deciding between license fee increases or the elimination of nine programs and 44 staff positions from the only agency in New York State with the ability to enforce environmental laws. New York license fees are currently among the least expensive in the nation. Though there are many reasons for and varying avenues of increasing revenues, license fee changes represent the best short-term option.
"The message is clear; Trout Unlimited members and other outdoors enthusiasts support environmental conservation, both through license fees and their direct dollars and sweat equity in hundreds of projects throughout New York," stated Mosher. "The time to do this is now rather than mortgaging our future."
Trout Unlimited recognizes the current fiscal crisis in DEC and strongly advocates not only the proposed increase in license fees but further increases in funding dedicated to DEC's Conservation Fund. Every New York taxpayer and voter who appreciates the State's natural resources needs to contact his or her elected representatives Joseph Bruno, Owen Johnson, Carl Marcellino, Sheldon Silver, Michael Bragman, and Conservation Committee Chair Richard Brodsky by the March 15th deadline to voice firm support for investing in DEC.
Trout Unlimited is the nation's leading coldwater conservation organization dedicated to the conservation, protection and restoration trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds. The organization has more than 117,000 members in 500 Chapters in North America, including 8,500 members in the state of New York.