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 specific purpose.

Typical Types Of NO STRINGS Funding (Unrestricted)

Revenue from sale of licenses (fishing & hunting).
Federal funding for general land management.
State funding for general operations.

Typical Types Of Funding WITH STRINGS (Restricted)

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 Mandate

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.