MUCC’s Position on the License Fee Proposal: Transparency NeededFebruary 26th, 2013
One of the primary focuses of MUCC’s inquiries into the operations of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources was transparency. License-buyers deserve to know where their license dollars are going. This is an area that, historically, the Department has simply not been as open as many would like — including MUCC.
At the request of stakeholders and appointed and elected officials for more transparency, the DNR Chief of Finance and Operations and a team from the Department of Treasury began sharing more detailed budget information regularly with the Natural Resources Commission and the public, via the DNR website. This includes tracking any expected fund balances/deficits early and explaining any necessary adjustments to spending plans.
With the DNR providing more detailed financial information to the public, MUCC and other organizations were able to more closely monitor where exactly DNR funding is being directed. That scrutiny had almost immediate impact.
In 2010, MUCC and other conservation organizations, blew the whistle on the misuse of Deer Range Improvement Program funds. This discovery was the direct result of increased focus on DNR operations. While the use of DRIP funds for jack pine forest habitat management was not “illegal”, it certainly benefited Kirtland Warbler’s more than deer.
It is exactly this prioritization of limited funding that concerned MUCC, both then and now. MUCC has consistently requested that the DNR provide clear and understandable reporting on all projects: How much is spent and to what purpose. Only then can we engage in the bigger question of priorities. And only then can the organization truly determine if additional funding is needed.
Great strides have been taken in some areas of the Department to provide this level of detail. Perhaps the best example being the Wildlife Division Annual Report.
MUCC strongly urged the Department to provide users with an easy-to-read annual report that would detail what it is that each DNR Division does. The Wildlife Division’s Annual Report is the first outcome of these requests. The report provides details on where the Wildlife Division spends our license dollars, federal funding, and their limited general fund budget and provides very clear information on what it is that those dollars are used for and the hours invested.
We can — and will — still look closely at where the Division is placing its priorities–that is a very valid question and every hunter, trapper, and wildlife watcher might have a different take on it. But it makes for a much easier conversation to have the figures available in a format that’s easy to access and understand. This report, MUCC believes, is a major step in the right direction.
This is exactly the type of transparency that all facets of the DNR should provide.