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Columns

February 9, 2013

Investment in DEC isinvestment in state's future

What is the relationship between Gov. Cuomo’s proposed budget and your desire to protect New York’s environment? What is the relationship between Gov. Cuomo’s proposed budget and the economic potential of tourism to upstate? What is the relationship between Gov. Cuomo’s proposed budget and the value you get back from your hunting or fishing license? What is the relationship between Gov. Cuomo’s proposed budget and his claim that New York is once again business friendly?

Each of those things is impacted by his proposal to cut $58 million from the DEC’s budget. And it doesn’t stop there. You see there are unintended consequences from banning firearms. It is a little known fact that New York’s “Conservation Fund” – the money that funds the State’s fish and wildlife management and protection programs – consists of money from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and money that comes from a federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition and on fishing tackle. That excise tax is collected at the point of manufacture and then doled out, under a program known as “Federal Aid”, by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to the states based upon their population and number of licensed sportsmen and women. 

New York has received hundreds of millions of dollars since the program’s inception in the 1930s and most of that money comes from firearms and ammunition that isn’t used for hunting but rather for recreational shooting. Right now there is about $30 million of Federal Aid money in the Conservation Fund that the Budget Office won’t allow the DEC to spend. It is being set aside to create the appearance that the deficit is less than it actually is and doing that violates the rules.

While I had the privilege of serving as your DEC Commissioner under Gov. Pataki, the DEC had about 4,000 employees or FTEs (full time equivalents) whose job it was to protect the quality of our environment. They did this by helping people and business comply with the myriad environmental laws and regulations and by managing our state’s renewable and non-renewable natural resources. 

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