It is time to demand public funding for the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department, which does a lot for all the citizens of Maine, but gets almost no funding from most Mainers. Public funding for DIFW should be the top priority in the next legislative session for all of Maine’s groups representing hunters, anglers, conservationists, and environmentalists.
The last time we made a serious effort to achieve this was in 2010 when the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (for which I worked at the time), the Nature Conservancy, and Maine Audubon stepped up to offer a permanent fix for this long-standing problem.
The initiative would have provided an ongoing revenue stream of public funding for DIFW, protected by the Constitution. Thanks to our previous work, the department’s revenue from hunters and anglers is protected by the Constitution.
Sadly, we were unable to get that support in the House and Senate. It’s time to try again, and I would focus on getting a percentage of the sales tax for the department.
I want to share with you today some of Ken Elowe’s 2010 report to the legislature on this issue. At the time Ken was DIFW’s Resource Bureau Director. Here’s what he said.
“Today, money from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses pays for the person you call for information about fish, wildlife, and related outdoor matters, the people that ensure that moose, birds, and other animals are there for viewing, the person who acquires and develops boat ramps for the use of recreational boaters (including kayakers and canoers) and commercial enterprises in addition to hunters and anglers, the biologists that protect loons, seabirds, and bald eagles, biologists that provide regulatory review of development permits to ensure that habitat for fish and wildlife is not degraded, biologists that work with communities to plan development to ensure that open space and wild places are preserved in your communities and remain open to traditional activities, the warden who rescues you when you are lost while hiking, the person who helps you deal with your child’s scout project, a response when your pet or child has been exposed to a potentially rabid animal, the person who provides conservation education in your local school, and the list goes on.”
Ken actually understated the astonishing impact that the staff of this agency has on the quality of life here in Maine. Yet at that time, of the 1,316,456 individuals in the state of Maine, only 326,500 purchased some kind of service from the department and helped pay the bills. The rest were freeloaders – and still are.