OLYMPIA -- The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is projecting a
revenue shortfall in its Wildlife Fund account that could reach as high as $17 million by
the end of the biennium, June 30, 1999.
Because of the shortfall, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission met
tonight to examine its short-term and long-term options.
"This is a serious problem and it requires an immediate solution," said Lisa Pelly,
the commission's chair. "The well-being of Washington's fish and wildlife resources are
going to need everyone's help and assistance to get through this."
"All of us appreciate and benefit from Washington's beautiful outdoors and our
fish and wildlife. But it's a small and decreasing percentage who actually purchase
licenses that contribute to the revenue for ensuring these resources are healthy for our
future," Pelly said.
Most revenue for the Wildlife Fund account is generated by hunting and fishing
license sales. The projected revenue deficit is linked to a trend of decreasing license
sales. Washington state is not alone in declining hunting and fishing license sales; fish
and wildlife agencies in the western states are experiencing similar trends.
Across the nation, more and more people are using their recreational dollars to
pursue non-hunting and fishing interests, such as college and professional sports, and
they also face higher costs of living for housing and vehicles. In addition, there is a
rising number of one-parent homes in which the parent has no hunting or fishing values
to pass to his or her children.
"We believe $17 million is the worst case scenario. We are taking steps
immediately to control spending within the agency while developing options that
address both current spending levels and new ways to generate revenue," Pelly said.
WDFW has not requested an increase in hunting and fishing license fees since
1991. Traditionally, the agency adjusted fees every four to six years to cover
inflationary increases. Increased costs of providing fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing
opportunities, maintaining WDFW's recreational facilities, and fighting poaching and
dealing with dangerous and nuisance wildlife have outstripped revenue.
Other factors have contributed to the declines in the Wildlife Fund balance. For example,
several million dollars have been shifted from the Wildlife Fund to fish and
wildlife habitat rehabilitation and building projects. In the past, Legislatures have used
General Fund revenues for these purposes.
Because of the anticipated shortfall, the Washington Fish and Wildlife
Commission and the agency's management team are considering budget innovations
or reductions in the following areas:
- Generate more revenue by developing new opportunities and activities for the
public to enjoy fish and wildlife resources
- Create renewed interest in hunting and fishing by appealing to persons who
enjoy outdoors activities, to new generations of children, as well as non-
- Sell WDFW property and other assets with low fish and wildlife value
- Reduce agency operations and services that will require employee layoffs
In addition, WDFW Director Bern Shanks has ordered an immediate hiring
freeze and halt to new building projects and equipment purchases.
- Reduce maintenance expenditures on WDFW facilities and lands
"We have a 16-month window to develop a combination of creative solutions for
this $17-million problem," Shanks said. "Most solutions we find will require sacrifice.
We want to do everything we can to minimize the reduction of staff who provide critical
services as we deal with this problem."