House Finance Committee hearings to be Held March 7-18
The House Finance Committee will hold a series of regional hearings on the state budget, which includes stopgap funding for the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. The hearing schedule is as follows:
- CONCORD – Thursday, March 7, 2013, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. in Representatives Hall, State House, 107 North Main Street, Concord.
- WHITEFIELD – Monday, March 11, 2013, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. at White Mountains Regional High School, 127 Regional Road, Whitefield.
- NASHUA – Monday, March 11, 2013, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. at NH Community Technical College, 505 Amherst Street, Nashua.
- CLAREMONT – Monday, March 18, 2013, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Sugar River Valley Regional Technical Center, 111 South Street, Claremont.
- ROCHESTER – Monday, March 18, 2013, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Rochester Community Center, 150 Wakefield Street, Rochester.
BACKGROUND ON N.H. FISH AND GAME’S FUNDING ISSUES:
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is facing a major funding shortfall. On behalf of the state and its citizens, Fish and Game manages the state’s fish, wildlife and marine resources, which boosts our economy and enhances our quality of life. Without legislative action, the Fish and Game Fund will be depleted by the end of FY 2015.
What does Fish and Game need?
Fish and Game cannot continue to fulfill its responsibilities without additional funding assistance from the State General Fund:
- Short term: $550,000 for FY 2014 and $745,000 for FY 2015 in State General Funds; this includes $200,000/year for the Search and Rescue Fund.
- Long term: Establishment of a stable supplemental funding source to create a means for the broader public constituencies who benefit from the Department’s services to help contribute to its operations. A Legislative Funding Commission to explore options is part of HB2 as introduced.
Actions citizens and lawmakers can take:
- Support stopgap funding in the state budget (HB1) to keep the N.H. Fish and Game Department operating in FY 2014-15.
- Support passage of legislation to create long-term funding sources for Fish and Game.
- Go to http://www.wildnh.com/funding for a list of opportunities to speak out on behalf of your Fish and Game Department.
Search and Rescue — Essential Public Safety Services: Part of the funding shortfall for Fish and Game is the cost of search and rescue missions. Basic funding for Search and Rescue efforts comes from a $1 fee on every boat, snowmobile, OHRV and ATV registration; these fees are deposited into the Search and Rescue Fund. For some time, these fees have not been sufficient to cover costs, so the deficit – which now typically exceeds $200,000/year – draws down the Fish and Game Fund.
All N.H. residents and visitors benefit from Fish and Game programs and services, from fish and wildlife management to boating access, land conservation and search and rescue:
- Unlike most state agencies, Fish and Game is self-funded. Its revenue comes from hunting and fishing license fees and federal sources such as Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration funds.
- The only State General Fund money that currently goes to the Fish and Game Department is a $50,000 matching grant to the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program. This represents 0.2% of Fish and Game’s total budget.
- Less than 25% of the population – hunters and anglers – currently help fund the Department. That formula worked for many years, but today there are fewer hunters and anglers and increasing demands for Fish and Game services.
Fish and Game’s work brings jobs and tourists to New Hampshire, creating a major economic engine for the state. Our science-based management of fish and wildlife provides benefits to all wildlife, to our residents and state visitors, and improves the quality of life for everyone who benefits from these resources.
- Wildlife-associated recreation contributed $556 million in expenditures to N.H.’s economy in 2011, according to the 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. Of this total, hunters and anglers spent $275 million, while wildlife watchers spent $281 million.
- Anglers, hunters and wildlife watchers spent $112 million on food and lodging in New Hampshire, based on the 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.
- In 2012, commercial marine fisheries landings in New Hampshire were valued at $22 million.
Fish and wildlife conservation provides healthy outdoor recreational opportunities for New Hampshire residents and tourists:
- Hunters and anglers age 16 and above spent over 5.7 million recreation days in New Hampshire during 2011, while wildlife watchers tallied 1.9 million days of wildlife-watching recreation away from their own homes. Wildlife watching in New Hampshire represents high economic value resulting from the Department’s work, which is currently supported primarily by hunting and fishing revenues. Collectively, this represents 7.6 million user days of wildlife recreation in New Hampshire.
- According to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, in 2011 (people age 16 and older):
- 56,000 hunted in NH;
- 28,000 fished in NH;
- 630,000 watched wildlife in NH.
Fish and Game programs support clean water, clean air and a healthy environment for wildlife and people:
- Fish and Game provides critical support for habitat and land conservation in the state, at a time when N.H. is losing 18,000 acres of open land to development each year. Our conservation partners have expressed support for supplemental funding – and concern for the future of our state’s wildlife and natural areas if the Fish and Game Department does not get the help it seeks.
Your support will help ensure that future generations can hunt, fish and enjoy wildlife and wild places in New Hampshire. Watch the Fish and Game website, http://www.wildnh.com, for updates on Fish and Game’s funding situation.
Logo courtesy New Hampshire Fish and Game Department