May 27, 2013. The North Carolina Senate passed a budget that includes a staggering 49 percent appropriations cut to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. This agency oversees programs, research, and management related to wildlife conservation, hunting, fishing, recreational boating, and urban wildlife. The cuts to the agency’s budget are staggering and, if enacted, will devastate long-standing programs critical to clean water and wildlife habitat.
“We are extremely disappointed,” says Tim Gestwicki, CEO of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, a non-profit conservation organization that launched in 1945 expressly to work towards establishing a state agency that managed fish and wildlife based on science-based management principles. “This comes without warning and with zero communication with the state agency with regards to impacts or implications of General statutes.”
In previous years the General Assembly has appropriated about $18 million to the Commission to provide services and infrastructure to manage and protect the fish and wildlife resources of the state. This year, the proposal is to appropriate only $9 million to the agency for these activities. This is a cut of about 49 percent, a far cry from the governor’s proposed budget decrease of less than one percent.
In reaction to the Senate budget, the agency has put on immediate hold 120 ongoing projects, citing the far-reaching and crippling impacts cuts of this magnitude. Slashed would include critical services such as law enforcement and widely used statewide infrastructure for boating and fishing access areas, game lands, shooting ranges, community fishing sites, and fish hatcheries.
By the numbers:
The agency manages 2 million acres of public game lands; 49 lakes and ponds, including 31 dams; 73 waterfowl impoundments; 1,878 miles of roads; 6 fish hatcheries that produce 7 million fish annually; 58 public fishing areas; 211 public boating access areas; 1,400 navigational aids; and 137 buildings that range from storage buildings and field stations to education centers and a 73,000-square-foot agency headquarters and environmental education center.
Annual Economic Impact in the state
• 1.2 million resident anglers, 395,000 non-resident anglers, $1.5 billion direct annual spending
• 259,000 resident hunters, 77,000 non-resident hunters, $525 million direct annual spending
• 2.4 million wildlife-watching participants, $930 million direct annual spending
• $3.3 billion impact to the North Carolina economy each year
According to Gestwicki, without these funds, residents and visitors to North Carolina will see immediate and lasting negative impacts to access projects, infrastructure, and resource management. “We urge the House to restore sanity to the budget and include the sufficient resources needed,” he states.” If this is not rectified, we would move from having a formidable and respected wildlife agency to a podunk one left to whither, hog-tied in its ability to deliver its charge by state statute.”
The House will now deliberate their budget and then the two chambers will go to conference committee to produce a final budget to be presented to the Governor.
The North Carolina Wildlife Federation formed in 1945 when sportsmen from around the state worked for the establishment of a science-based wildlife management agency. Those efforts came to fruition when, in 1947, the General Assembly authorized the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
The North Carolina Wildlife Federation is a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to all NC wildlife and its habitat. www.ncwf.org.