Ever wonder what happens to the money you spend on hunting license fees here in Texas? It obviously goes to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), but how do the monies actually get used and divvied up among the department’s many programs?
According to TPWD by law all funds generated through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and stamps, as well as 85% of boat registrations fees, all go into a dedicated account called Fund 9, the Game and Fish Fund, and is likewise applied and invested into programs that support future hunting and fishing activities in Texas. Similarly all revenues generated via state parks – entrance fees, cabin fees, park concessions (think picnickers, hikers, campers, and recreational boaters) – along with revenues from historical sites and 15% of boat registration fees, by law go into another dedicated account called Fund 64, the State Park Fund. Monies in Fund 64 get used to support programs at state parks across Texas. Long story short, since both funds are “dedicated” accounts monies from Fund 64 can only be applied to state parks and historic sites and cannot be used for hunting, fish hatcheries, game wardens. Monies from Fund 9 on the other hand can only be used for things like inland and coastal fisheries research, surveys and hatcheries, wildlife surveys, research and hunting programs, game and fish enforcement, along with boater safety laws.
Sounds all good and fair, until you dig a little bit deeper like this reporter and you find out that a pretty big chunk of these funds aren’t actually being used, but are instead being left to sit dormant in the account to essentially make the state’s finances look better. As Shannon Tompkins from the Houston Chronicle puts it:
“For TPWD to spend money from the Fund 9 pot, that money has to be appropriated by the Legislature through its budget and appropriations acts.
By appropriating only some of the license money, the Legislature can count the ‘unappropriated balance’ in Fund 9 on the positive side of the ledger when calculating the overall state budget.”
What exactly does this mean? An estimated $31 million is currently sitting idle in Fund 9 to make the Legislature’s pretty, little, balanced state budget look good on paper while TPWD is being forced to cut back, on its fisheries and wildlife programs. So far cutbacks have included 115 employee layoffs. You can read Tompkins’ full article here.
So, it’s time to get busy and contact your elected official (find yours here) and remind them that you pay good money to hunt and fish in this state and you want them to stop playing around and use 100% of Fund 9 the way its meant to be used: to support Texas wildlife and future hunting and fishing activities.