Pay to play

To aid a state agency destined to be left badly strapped for cash because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the leader of the state’s largest outdoor organization is suggesting Alaska follow the lead of Colorado and require anyone using recreational access sites or facilities funded by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game be required to buy a hunting or fishing license.

License sales are vital to the state agency’s budget, and they are plummeting because of the 2020, pandemic-driven death of tourism in the north. For years, revenues from these non-resident licenses have, directly and indirectly, provided the bulk of the money the state needs to fund management of sport fisheries and wildlife management.

With the anglers from the Lower 48 barely showing this year, Dave Rutz, the director of the Sport Fish, said the division is looking at a cash shortfall of $5 million to $10 million or more. He said the financial losses are coming on two fronts.

Most of the non-resident anglers who last year bought more than $19 million in licenses and tags are missing from the 49th state this year, Rutz said, and national sales of fishing tackle and motorboat fuel on which the federal government imposes excise taxes to collect funds for state conservation programs are falling because of the national recession.

The Division of Wildlife Conservation is in a similar situation. It also needs revenue from license sales to support programs and match federal taxes that contribute more than $30 million per year to the division’s budget.

The funding problem is not unique to Alaska, said Rod Arno, the executive director of the Alaska Outdoor Council. Colorado, he said, has already moved to try to fill part of its budget hole by requiring everyone who uses recreation sites funded by fishing or hunting dollars buy a license.

No free ride

Starting July 1, all users of Colorado boat launches and other sites that fall under the control of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission will need in their possession a hunting or fishing license, The Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction reported this week.

“All adults using the areas will be required to purchase a proper and valid hunting or fishing license in order to access these areas….For example, if a family of four takes a boat out for a day on the river, every person on the boat 18 years or older will need a license,” reporter Alex Zorn wrote.

Colorado is reported to have more than 350 state wildlife areas and nearly 240 state trust lands which will fall under the new license requirement. It is unclear how many areas a similar rule could cover in Alaska, but Arno is convinced it could be applied to “every legislatively designated area that mentions hunting” as well as to fishing and hunting access sites on which the state annually spends conservation funds.

About $3 million per year in funding tied to the federal Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration and Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration funds are spent in Alaska.

One such improvement is a bridge across Penguin Creek in the half-million-acre Chugach State Park just east of the state’s largest city.

“This project was completed in July 2019,” according to the agency. “The derelict bridge was replaced with a 60-foot bridge that is designed to accommodate ATV traffic. The new bridge restores an essential stream crossing over Penguin Creek, preventing stream bank erosion and resource damage to an important anadromous salmon stream.”

The bridge appears to be used far more by hikers, cyclists and snowmachine riders than by hunters. But it was funded with money from the big pool of Pittman-Robertson Funds.

Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson funds annually generate more than $1 billion in taxes on fishing tackle, firearms, boats, marine fuel and more. The money is divided among the states based on a formula that takes into account their size and the number of hunters and anglers.

Size matters

Texas and Alaska are annually the biggest beneficiaries. Texas was awarded more than $54 million and Alaska more than $51 million in fiscal year 2018, according to the Department of the Interior. The next closest state was California which was granted less than $43 million.

The funding is expected to drop this year, and the Alaska Sport Fish Division is in a particularly difficult spot because the Dingell-Johnson fund requires the state provide a dollar to match every three dollars in federal funds.

To collect the $17 million to $18 million the state usually gets from the fund, the state needs to generate about $6 million in license fees. Residents anglers bought less than $3.5 million in licenses and king salmon stamps last year.

State officials aren’t sure they’ll get the money to meet matching requirements, and even if they do, the loss of license fees from nonresidents will hit hard at the division’s budget.

An 80 percent reduction in non-resident license fees – which is possible – would appear to still provide the state enough to meet the federal match, but the Sport Fish Division would be left with a greater than $15 million budget shortfall.

A requirement everyone using river, lake and wildland access sites fund by anglers and hunters wouldn’t begin to close that a budget gap the big, but the budgetary situation is so bad that any additional dollars would help, Arno said.

















12 replies »

  1. We already charge for parking. Now you have to have a license to use the great outdoors. What we need is efficient effective limited government. Not the bloated unsustainable government we have now.

  2. Seems to me as far as trail access goes,funding has come from the wrong pie.Not saying trail projects should be wiped of the to do list,just funded a different way.
    Sport hunters/fishers,perhaps Personal Use as well will have to pony up.
    As far as this state goes,the decline of the age of oil will make things more spendy all the way around.
    Virus collateral is just more fuel for the fire.And couldn’t have come at a worst time for this state.

  3. Ah, as Glitter Gulch remains empty…Hmmmmm.

    Nearly half of all deaths from the coronavirus in the United States have occurred at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, according to new reports.

    The rate of cases to deaths from such facilities has been disproportionate: while only 11 percent of positive cases – around 282,000 – have occurred at nursing homes and long-term care facilities, about 43 percent of deaths – or 54,000 deaths – have come from the same, the New York Times reported.

  4. It seems stupid to require the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses just to use access points across Alaska?
    Is this a shadow attempt to continue to fund the bloated budgets of Fish and Game in AK?
    Couldn’t a “Trail Pass” or parking sticker accomplish the same revenue stream for the state?
    The real “back-story” to this situation is that fewer and fewer Americans are growing up to harvest their own food and millions of Americans are switching to a Plant Based diet.
    Factor in that the Salmon fishing across South-Central is shit after the hatcheries and commercial fishing fleet annihilated the natural returns.
    Alaska has continuously placed all of it’s eggs in the corporate basket and now the bottom has fallen out of the oil industry.
    As hybrid cars and electric vehicles continue to use up less and less of the petroleum surplus in America the economy will continue to plummet on the national level.

  5. Here’s an idea. Right now, an Alaskan over 60 receives a free fishing license and king stamp. Since many of these Alaskans are comfortably retired, why not charge them? If they’re not comfortably retired, they would qualify for the existing low income $5 license. It won’t solve the budget shortfall, but it will help.

  6. Back Outside after a 15 day fishing quarantine. I saw a total of 3 sportfishers while traveling from Seattle and on to our final destination. Local restaurant businesses where we in previous years had to wait for a table were empty. The devastation to these businesses is real and likely permanent. How do you recover from something like this? Extending this observation to the State, support for Pay to Play seems logical. Who else is going to pay? The Feds are going to stop printing money. Time to get real about what the future holds.

    • Bob,
      I believe the feds are already working to curtail the flow of cash in our society.
      Social media has been posting signs from across the country that say “please use exact change or use a card for payment”?
      The Covid 1984 Propaganda machine was just the first step to collapse the small business sector of America and move closer to the globalist dream of a cashless society where everyone is tracked and analyzed with facial recognition and A.I. algorithms.
      Technocratic Fascism is on the horizon as states move to make vaccinations mandatory while installing applications (without permission) on everyone’s “smart phone” across the country.

      • Steve S. the Chinese use WeChat.. An app that is tied directly into their bank accounts, etc.. They do everything using that app. They pay for transportation, restaurants, shows, groceries, etc.. It is all controlled by the overseeing government. I walked into a Burger King in China and they didnt even accept currency.
        My point is, what you describe already exists and is in use across the pond. FB, Twitter, etc.. us cash apps. Guess since they are commies, it is all the same. So, guess it is already here in some form or another.

  7. Hmm, “everybody in the boat over 18yo needs a fishing license”. All this to compensate for ignorance, mismanagement, and over-extreme compensation.
    Take Texas since they are in the news lately and in the article.. They have more testing going on, thus have a rise in cases obviously, but their deaths are falling. Destroy the states economies, livelihoods, and destroy tourism for years to come. For what?? Say I get A 102 degree temp. scratchty throat, sneeze, or cough? So what. The way the news portrays the virus it is like a death sentence – “3 more people tested positive for Covid”. So what!!! We know that every flu death is now a Covid death, because Covid pays and the flu doesn’t. We know 99.4% of the people will not die from this virus, yet we need tracking apps, gov databases on positive individuals, and everybody needs to wear a mask that may or may not work, while trillions of dollars are spent on guess-work.
    How many suicides, drug overdoses, debt defaults, job losses, and economies need ruined over the “flu”?

    • Now thing about this,ALL WITH A VACCINE. I know one death is worse than the other..Covid is the real killa, the sky is falling, yadda.

      “Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory illness that is responsible for significant morbidity and mortality. Approximately 9% of the world’s population is affected annually, with up to 1 billion infections, 3 to 5 million severe cases, and 300,000 to 500,000 deaths each year.

      In the U.S. alone, nearly 20% of the population is affected. On average, 25 to 50 million documented influenza cases, 225,000 hospitalizations, and ultimately more than 20,000 deaths occur every year.”

  8. Hey Craig-

    Let’s get one thing straight, cause and effect of lost revenues by ALL states.
    Cause, the Communist China Virus. Effect, disaster loss of wealth to ALL
    USA people.
    Keep your eye on the moving political money ball at all times.
    Your lead to nearly everthing opinion or factual article should reference the Communist China Virus, cause and effect.
    It’s election year, again. But this one is definitely a make or brake our democracy. Fake corporate news publishers are all in! And you?

    Btw, been reading you since the 80’s.

Leave a Reply