[env-trinity] Sac Bee 2 12 09 Hunting and Fishing License Fee Diversion

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Thu Feb 12 10:15:52 PST 2009


Wildlife fund loan could cost state millions in federal money


mweiser at sacbee.com 


Published Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009


 

State officials have been warned that California could lose millions in
federal funds if they shift revenues out of the Department of Fish and Game
to ease the state budget crisis.

The Schwarzenegger administration has proposed borrowing $30 million from
the Fish and Game Preservation Fund, which comes from hunting and fishing
license fees, as one of many measures to balance a huge state budget
deficit. The money would be paid back to the fund by 2013, with interest.

That money is supposed to be used for wildlife and law enforcement programs
at the Department of Fish and Game, not the state general fund. 

In a Jan. 27 letter to the state, the regional director of the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service said California could lose another $30 million in federal
matching funds for wildlife programs if such a loan takes place.

"We are deeply concerned about any proposal to remove hunting and fishing
license revenues from the Department of Fish and Game Preservation Fund,"
Ren Lohoefener wrote in the letter, which was triggered by The Bee's Jan. 17
story on the issue.

Lohoefener's letter was addressed to California Department of Fish and Game
Director Don Koch.

He explained that California's ability to receive federal wildlife matching
funds depends on honoring legal agreements between the two agencies. Those
agreements forbid using state and federal hunting and fishing license money
for non-wildlife expenses.

H.D. Palmer, deputy director of the state Department of Finance, said the
administration has not yet responded to the letter and hopes to discuss it
with the Fish and Wildlife Service.

He said the administration believes that because the money would be paid
back and because it is claimed to have no immediate impact on Fish and Game
programs, it would not violate the legal agreements.

"It's not a diminution of any program, and that's why we want to talk to the
Fish and Wildlife Service," Palmer said.

The money is a relatively small sum compared with the state's overall
deficit, about $40 billion by June 2010 without major revenue and spending
fixes.

Yet it's a lot of money for state wildlife programs, which have suffered
regular program cuts for many years.

The subject came up at last week's meeting in Sacramento of the Fish and
Game Commission, a panel appointed by the governor.

Game wardens, who number just 200 in the field for the entire state, were
not given the same exemption to furloughs that the governor granted to
California Highway Patrol officers.

The commission called this unacceptable and voted to write a letter to the
governor urging him to exempt wardens from furloughs.

"We desperately need to protect our wild environment and our critters out
there, and I would be very disappointed if our wardens were cut in any way,"
said Commissioner Richard Rogers of Carpinteria.

The commission also took steps to trim its own expenses.

Monthly meetings normally rotate around the state so people in different
regions can attend. The two-day meetings normally occur on Thursday and
Friday.

This year, the commission will meet on Wednesday and Thursday to avoid
conflict with state employee furloughs. And all its meetings will be held in
the Sacramento region.

It estimates these changes will save the state $50,000 to $100,000 this year

 

Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land

415 519 4810 cell

 <mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net

 <mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
(secondary)

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