Maine Warden Service strangling fisheries and wildlife management.

DIF&W LogoIt’s a roadmap to the agency’s priorities and programs. And some of the things along that road will surprise you.

I just received a financial report on the revenues and expenditures of Maine’s Fish and Wildlife Department for Fiscal Year 2014, from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014.

The agency received $35,860,125 from 55 revenue sources and spent $37,360,309 in its 7 divisions. While it’s a bit of a mystery as to how they came to spend more than they raised, Commissioner Chandler Woodcock did disclose recently that the agency currently has a $3 million surplus.

If you don’t read any more of this report, please consider this:

In Fiscal Year 2014, the Maine Warden Service spent $857,689 more than the Fisheries and Wildlife Divisions COMBINED! And 60 percent of all the revenue DIF&W raised in Maine went to law enforcement. This is not an appropriate allocation of funding or spending, in my opinion. We spend more on law enforcement that we spend on all the work on fisheries and wildlife including species management, habitat enhancement and protection, and hatcheries.

Major Revenue Sources

The agency’s major sources of funding come from the sale of licenses and permits. Fishing licenses, permits, and fees brought in $5,327,111. Hunting Licenses, permits, and fees raised $4,686,910. Combination hunting and fishing licenses, favored by many sportsmen, brought in $4,488,663. And other sporting permits and licenses raised $902,920.

The moose lottery is another major source of funding, raising $1,753,660.  Moose lottery money had declined over recent years to $1,384,953 in 2010, so it’s nice to see it rebounding a bit. I continue to believe DIF&W ought to be spending more of this money on moose management and research.

Registrations of recreational vehicles continues to be a major source of funding for the agency. Boat registrations brought in $2,167,137, ATV registrations $1,355,575, and snowmobile registrations $880,266.

Federal funds are a very significant source of revenue, bringing in $10,270,913 in FY 14. This money cannot be spent on law enforcement, so most of it goes to the Wildlife and Fisheries Divisions.

Other Interesting Revenue Sources

Fines paid by poachers and other law breakers brought in $550,872, and cash confiscated by game wardens amounted to $8,320. When I worked for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, we started auctioning guns confiscated by the Warden Service and State Police. But no auction was held last year, so DIF&W raised only $558 from “asset forfeiture” in FY 14. Colonel Joel Wilkinson told me he plans to have an auction “in the near future.”

Sale of promotional items, those DIF&W tee shirts and other items, brought in $176,649, but the sale of mailing lists raised only $481. A few years ago, after I had purchased the agency’s email list, DIF&W convinced the legislature to prohibit the sale of email addresses. But interested parties can still purchase the names and addresses of those who purchase licenses, permits, and registrations from the agency.

DIF&W made a surprising $456,450 from the sale of trees on its Wildlife Management Areas. Misc. services and fees raised $361,181, and entrance fees $499,373. I assume that comes from the Wildlife Park.

Some of the smaller revenue sources were auto sales $2,255, sale of fish eggs $860, use of concessions $1,677, and the pheasant stamp $25,653.

Expenditures

The Commissioner’s Office spent $3,442,742, the Engineering Division $1,118,556, Licensing and Registration $1,442,818, and Information & Education $2,033,694.

Most of the agencies funding went to Wildlife Management, $8,120,218, Fisheries and Hatcheries, $6,112,187, and the Warden Service, $15,090,094.

The Warden Service spent $857,689 more than the Fisheries and Wildlife Divisions COMBINED! And 60 percent of all the revenue DIF&W raised in Maine went to law enforcement.

This requires some explanation. The Warden Service says it gets about 40 percent of all of their agency’s money. But this ignores the fact that the $10,000,000 of federal funds can’t be spent on law enforcement. So all of the Warden Service’s money has to come from state funds. And they take 60 percent of those funds.

Much of the federal money goes to pay 2/3 of the wages of fishery and wildlife biologists. No federal money can be used on hatcheries, so 61 percent of the Fisheries and Hatcheries Division comes from state funds. But 70 percent of the Wildlife Division’s spending is covered by federal funds.

Recreational Vehicles

I compared the money raised by DIF&W from recreational vehicle registrations, and compared that percentage to the percentage of time game wardens spend on recreational vehicle enforcement. The results are interesting.

Snowmobile registrations brought in 2.5 percent of all of DIF&W’s state revenue, while game wardens spent 6 percent of their time on snowmobile enforcement.

ATV registrations brought in 3.8 percent of all of DIF&W’s state revenue, and game wardens spent 3.2 percent of their time on ATV enforcement.

Boat registrations brought in 6 percent of all of DIF&W’s state revenue, and wardens spent 8.8 percent of their time on boating enforcement.

On first look, you’d conclude that ATV owners are covering the costs of law enforcement, while snowmobile and boat owners are not. So I posed that question to Bob Meyers, the very capable director of the Maine Snowmobile Association. He thought the snowmobile revenue figures were low, and he’s checking on that for me. But I’ve got what DIF&W provided, so I have to assume it is accurate.

“There are about 26 percent fewer ATVs registered,” Bob told me, “and also a lot of ATV mayhem takes place on roads which puts it under the jurisdiction of local, county, and state law enforcement officers rather than wardens.”

 

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.