WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
NEWS RELEASE
600 Capitol Way North, Olympia, WA 98501-1091

February 26, 1998
Contact: Sandi Snell, (360) 902-2229

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Projected revenue shortfall in Wildlife Account

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- traditional participants
  • Sell WDFW property and other assets with low fish and wildlife value
  • Reduce agency operations and services that will require employee layoffs
  • Reduce maintenance expenditures on WDFW facilities and lands
In addition, WDFW Director Bern Shanks has ordered an immediate hiring freeze and halt to new building projects and equipment purchases.

"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."