The Opener: Follow the Money

MoneyIt's the question on the minds of every hunter, angler, and trapper that has purchased a license in the last year (and probably many more): where does that money go? It is probably the same question you ask while you fill up your car, see the taxes taken out of your paycheck, and file your tax returns every year. But unlike gas, income, and sales taxes in Michigan, hunting, fishing, and trapping license revenues are slightly easier to track—they head straight to the Game and Fish Protection Fund and a few sub-fund accounts. This restricted fund is protected by the Michigan Constitution (thanks to a Constitutional Amendment in 2006), meaning these license fees can only be used for fisheries and wildlife work, habitat management, conservation law enforcement, and their associated costs.
Thanks to a good partnership and open dialogue between the Snyder Administration, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources management team, and many statewide and regional hunting, fishing, trapping and conservation organizations in Michigan, we know exactly where those new revenues went and had a hand in developing those outcomes.
At the January meeting of the NRC, the DNR unveiled a new report on how the increase in license fees were used in Fiscal Year 2014 (which ended September 30, 2014).FY 2014 License Outcomes Reporting
In addition to the license fee revenue report (the top one in the list from the link above), they also have generated reports on how the major sub-funds were spent, including the Deer Range Improvement Program, Turkeys, and the Fisheries Settlement.
The intention of the main report is to talk about how this NEW license fee revenue is spent (what are we getting for more money), not necessarily an accounting of all the Game and Fish Funds or the DNR budget in total...we need to continue to discuss what we would like to see for that. Overall, MUCC was very pleased that not only did we have the opportunity to help to identify these outcomes, but that the DNR has been responsive to receiving our input on how the reports were laid out and has adjusted accordingly.
Unfortunately, the revenue from the license restructuring fell short of expectations. What the DNR and legislators hoped would raise about $11.8 Million in FY 2014, only brought in about $7.8 Million. But, that still means MORE money for fisheries and wildlife management, on the ground habitat, and conservation law enforcement. Here's a breakdown of the "13 buckets" where the new funding flowed in 2014 (click chart to view larger version):
FY 2014 License Outcomes-chart
Details about how this money was spent, where, how many acres of habitat it produced, etc. can be found in the new DNR report released last week (Download Here).
What we also learned last week is that the FY 2015 budget (that we are in right now) is looking like the state will have $5 million less in Game and Fish revenue than expected, meaning we have about $13.1 million in NEW funds (compared to the 2013 levels) rather than the expected $18 million.
There are 3 major contributions to this decline in expected FY 15 revenues:
  • Antlerless license revenue: down $1.6 million from expected. This may be a result of management changes just as much as the increased price, given that antlerless tags are pretty much gone in the U.P. and have been reduced even in the NLP snow belt and some areas of the Southern Lower where EHD hit a couple of years ago.
  • Base License for non-residents: There were about 13,000 fewer non-resident hunters purchasing base licenses, compared to what was expected. But because these licenses are $151, the net impact results in $2 million less in revenue.
  • 7-day Small Game: This license was intended for out of state hunters to come grouse/small game hunting for a short trip, as an alternative to buying the higher priced non-resident base license. But there were fewer sales than expected, which resulted in $350,000 less in revenue.
The DNR continues to hear complaints with the Nonresident Fishing License price, so the Director has agreed to discount that license by 10% (from $76 to $68). However, in terms of the impact on revenue last year, it wasn't as significant in the overall total because its assumed that many of those nonresident anglers still at least bought the 1 or 3 day licenses available to anyone. Regular deer license sales were down 6.7%, but this fell within what was expected in terms of resistance to the price changes.
MUCC will keep you informed as we learn more about how the $13.1 million in this current year is being spent and what the plans are for the FY 2016 budget next month, when Governor Snyder will announce his proposal before it heads through the appropriations process in the Michigan Legislature.
 
 

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