Achieving Funding Needs for Fishery Resources Management and Angler Access
Gordon C. Robertson, D. Michael Leonard, and Elizabeth A. Yranski
Despite their generous investments, anglers cannot keep up with the costs of fisheries management. Throughout the recent decades, issues and ideas tend to be cyclic and each new generation meets them with enthusiasm. One issue, however, prevails from year to year, and that is maintaining stable funding for fishery and other natural resource programs—funding that gives agency leaders the ability to engage in planning reasonably long-term programs that yield meaningful benefits to the resource and to the public that enjoys it.
The conservation model that the United States has adopted to execute its fish and wildlife management system is unique. It declares that fish and wildlife are public resources, that the “several states” have the primary responsibility for those resources, that they are for the enjoyment of the citizens of the several states, and that the management costs of the system are to be borne, for the most part, by the citizens who enjoy those resources (i.e., fish and hunt them). While fish and wildlife viewing is certainly an enjoyment, those that engage solely in viewing invest very little in any user-pay funds toward management of the resources they enjoy. This means that a large segment of the population has yet to support the natural resources they enjoy. In most states, there are no payment mechanisms for the viewing-only user group, and where there are voluntary systems, revenue is disproportionally low.
The dependency on paying participants makes it essential for the state fish and wildlife agency to engage in an area in which they currently are generally poorly staffed—marketing their product. Regardless of this shortcoming, the model is still the envy of the world because it has produced the best funded and most stable revenues for fish and wildlife conservation. Between a federal manufacturers excise tax on fishing equipment (Box 1) and state fishing license fees, recreational anglers invest about US$1.1 billion annually in fishery resource management and since 1950 invested some $26 billion in the resource.