No matter how many times West Virginia lawmakers are told it’s a bad idea, they can’t resist giving away the Natural Resources Department’s money.
Case in point: at an interim session of the Legislature’s Subcommittee on Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources on June 7, lawmakers incorporated two legislative proposals granting military veterans and volunteer firefighters free hunting and fishing licenses.
This appears to be the umpteenth time lawmakers have considered measures like this, and the umpteenth time DNR officials have had to explain why licensing would affect the agency’s ability to handle fish and wildlife.
You must meticulously explain that the agency gets the lion’s share of its annual revenue from license sales and federal grants directly tied to those license sales.
It amazes me that so many West Virginians seem to believe that DNR gets its money the way most government agencies do – directly from taxpayers.
The DNR receives only a small fraction of its annual income from taxpayers, mostly for administrative costs.
The rest – the part paid for law enforcement, game and fish management, and capital improvements like boat ramps and shooting ranges – comes straight from hunters and anglers.
According to MetroNews, DNR director Steve McDaniel told lawmakers that license revenue for the current fiscal year was approximately $ 15 million.
These license sales, in turn, helped the state attract many times that amount from the federal government. This is how it works:
The FBI charges an excise tax on almost every equipment hunters and anglers use – every firearm, ammunition box, bow, arrow, fishing rod, reel, and so on.
This money will be returned to states based on the number of hunting and fishing license buyers in each state. DNR officials must use the federal money to promote the state’s wildlife and fishing programs.
When federal funds are used in a program, the state pays 25% of the cost and federal agencies pays the remaining 75%. The DNR’s current annual budget is approximately $ 63 million, with the lion’s share coming from federal funds.
If lawmakers arbitrarily start giving away free licenses, license revenues will decline. Essentially, for every dollar the DNR lost in royalties, the DNR would lose $ 3 worth of federal money.
It is not rocket science, and yet our illustrious lawmakers cannot grasp it.
I’ve been involved with the DNR for over 40 years, and almost every year someone comes up with a bill that would give free licenses to a particular group.
One would think members of the legislature would understand the value of maintaining the DNR’s ability to conserve and improve hunting and fishing throughout the state, which benefits all West Virginians.
Instead, lawmakers try to ingratiate themselves with politically popular groups by offering them freebies.
It is sad. And it never seems to stop