Show Me The Money
Where The Money Goes
Craig Sandell © 2012
Without money the DNR cannot operate! An obvious
statement but a concept that is often overlooked by those who utilize the waterways and
forest lands for recreation. This article will attempt to put funding of the DNR
activities in perspective.
There are two kinds of money; those with strings and
those without strings. What that means is that some of the funding for the DNR is
allocated to the DNR to be used as the DNR deems necessary in order to accomplish its
resource management goal while some of the funding allocated to the DNR is allocated for a
Typical Types Of NO STRINGS Funding
Revenue from sale of licenses (fishing & hunting).
Federal funding for general land management.
State funding for general operations.
Typical Types Of Funding WITH
Federal grants for specific research studies.
State funding of specific management projects.
Endowments for specific activities.
The Budget Process
Simply put, the budget process takes all of the
available funding (Unrestricted) and compares it to the current and projected cost to operated the
DNR in accordance with its resource management goals and directives. If there is funding
to offset cost then the budget is in balance. If funding will not offset cost then either
more funding must be secured, some activities must be curtailed or eliminated
or some personnel must be cut from the payroll.
The Resource Management
The DNR is charged with insuring that residents of the
State and visitors to the State have access to the recreational resources of the State so
that such resource users enjoy a quality recreational experience. In order to accomplish
this goal, the DNR must evaluate the impact upon the land resources from businesses (resorts, mining operations, logging operations, etc.), and enforce licensing requirements and use regulations.
Mechanism To Accomplish
There are many integrated activities that are needed in
order for the DNR to accomplish its resource management goals. Administrative offices with
managers, secretaries, equipment and utilities must be established. Field offices with
site managers and required equipment must be established. Licenses must be printed,
regulations must be published, informational brochures must be distributed. In the case of
fisheries, the DNR may operate hatcheries for fish population enhancement (stocking). These
types of activities are not inexpensive.
Assessing Capabilities Stress
Most DNR operations are constantly under budgetary
pressure. Money wasters like Creel surveys, when done, are done on a very extended schedule and then only for
select fisheries. Population assessments to establish the biological basis for fishery
management are not scientifically applied, raising doubt as to the appropriateness of the
resultant management conclusions. State funding does not keep pace with the mandates placed upon the DNR resulting
in the prioritization of access to services.
Impact Upon The Musky Fisheries
Everything that puts pressure upon the DNR purse also
puts pressure upon the State management of Musky fisheries. This evident when
you consider that the DNR is currently stocking small growth strains of Musky
in an attempt to cut operational costs. Over the years, in response to
specific needs, many Musky clubs have begun stocking programs to target specific
fisheries but the DNR has placed restriction upon the strain of Musky allowed,
making it impossible to obtain truly trophy Musky fisheries in Wisconsin. Musky clubs have funded the building of fish cribs and supported other measures
meant to enhance fisheries. These "private
citizen activities" are filling the fishery
enhancement void resulting from a reduced willingness of the DNR to address these same areas.
The Funding Problem Is Getting Worse
Due to poor management and
bureaucratic interference, the DNR is facing a persistent
crisis in funding. Political pressure and competition from adjacent States prevents the
raising of license fees or facilities fees. Federal Grant funding (restricted) is
not as available as it once was and is likely to be less available in the future. (NOTE:
Very little of the Grant funding is directly
translatable to fishery resource enhancement.) The
outlook is not very good.
What Can Musky Anglers Do?
More involvement from Musky clubs is certainly
important, however, it does not address the funding crisis facing the DNR. As concerned
Musky anglers, we must face the reality that we are not the highest priority on the
resource management agenda of the DNR. The time has come to "bite the bullet"
and have the DNR establish a use fee for Musky anglers in the form of a tag system similar to that
which was used
in other areas of the country for fish species. The establishment of a Musky use tag will have some immediate effects.
If properly instituted, the DNR will set aside the Musky use fee to enhance Musky stocking
programs with strains of Musky that will produce larger Musky faster. It
will demonstrate the commitment of Musky anglers to fund their sport. It will, for the
first time, provide a credible mechanism to assess how many anglers, who buy fishing
licenses, actually fish for Musky. I recognize that this may not be a well received
suggestion by the Musky angling community or by the DNR. I recognize that there will be
problems associated with a use tag. The reality of politics, and make no mistake this is politics, is that
organized contributions garner attention and accommodation. As a group, Musky anglers must
demonstrate their commitment to funding and, thereby, establish themselves as participants
in the management of our Musky fisheries.