By JIM MATTHEWS
Do you know someone who has quit hunting or fishing in California in the past decade? We all do. I like to say that fish and wildlife exists today in California in spite of the Department of Fish and Game, not because of its efforts. It all relates to the DFG budget manipulation and mismanagement of funds. The agency’s decline starts and ends with wildlife that support hunting and fishing programs getting an increasingly short end of the budget stick.
How sportsmen fare in the DFG budget: Sportsmen are responsible for about 45 percent of the DFG’s annual budget through the payment of license and tag fees and federal excise taxes, yet only 21 percent of the DFG’s budget is spent on game and fish programs today. Once upon a time, these programs received 100 percent of that money. Even if we include all DFG law enforcement activities in this percentage pie that benefits the wildlife and sportsmen who pay the freight (and wardens should not be completely paid for by license fees), we still only get 35 percent of the total budget. Many in the agency correctly argue that many “other” DFG programs indirectly benefit fish and game programs. But it could just as reasonably be argued that many of these “other” programs are counter-productive and often directly at odds with good game and fish management programs.
How much federal funding does the DFG lose: Of the $71 million received in federal funds by the DFG, the two biggest allocations come from a pair of landmark laws that charge excise taxes on sporting equipment and allocate it back to the states. The state’s allocation of Pittman-Robertson funds (excise taxes on sporting arms and ammunition) is a little over $11 million each year. Based on the allocation system for P-R funds, which is derived from a state’s land mass and population compared to other states, California should be receiving about $36 million annually from this fund.
We lose most of these funds because our state can’t or won’t come up with the mandatory 25 percent matching funds for projects in game programs or game lands because the money is allocated to “other” programs -- programs apparently far more important than game programs even through hunters are getting a pittance of their investment back in wildlife research, management, and enhancement.
We are receiving the maximum allocation from the Dingell-Johnson fund (excise taxes on fishing tackle and boats) at just over $20 million each year, but much of that money has been earmarked for salmon and steelhead hatcheries in solid on-going programs for decades. The DFG would have to make a concerted effort to screw this up.
The bottom line is the DFG loses over $35 million a year in lost federal funding because it won’t support game and fish programs to a higher level.
How much has the DFG lost because of declining hunting and fishing license sales: Annual resident fishing license sales dropped below 1 million for the first time in 2011. Annual license sales were around 2.2 million annually in the late 1970s and into the 1980s. If the DFG grossed about $40 million on all fishing license sales in 2011, my simple-minded math tells me we’d have at least $80 million selling the same numbers of licenses today that we sold in the late 1970s.
In the late 1960s and in 1970, we were selling about 700,000 hunting licenses. In 2011, we sold about 240,000 annual licenses. That’s $9.5 million in annual license fees and a total of $21.2 million for all tag, stamp, and application fees paid by those 240,000 hunters. If we still had 700,000 hunters in California, the total revenue would have to be in $60 million range.
These license sale losses have accumulated while the state’s population has skyrocketed. If license sales had grown proportionally with the state’s population since 1970, just imagine what the revenue for the DFG would be like. The bottom line is that DFG has effectively sliced its sporting funding in half through lost license sales. This is what happens when you ignore game and fish programs and sportsmen.
Total lost revenue: What is a conservative estimate on how much money the DFG could – should – be bringing in on hunting and fishing license revenue with a good, aggressive game and fish management program? Licenses, tags, and stamps brought in $61 million in 2011. We should have over $140 million coming in. Federal excise taxes are currently $71 million today. We should receive at least $105 million. So instead of $185 million, the income should be more like $245 million. If there had actually been growth in the number of license holders, growth in concert with the state’s population which has doubled since 1970, the revenue would be in the $500 million range.
A final reminder: The DFG’s total annual budget today is right around $400 million, including all the non-game, vegetation, and invasive species programs, law enforcement staff, oil spill prevention and response teams, and on and on. But remember, game and fish programs are just 21 percent of that current budget.
Is it any wonder more and more hunters and fishermen are giving up on California?
The solution: The reality of the world is different today than four decades ago when the DFG was flush with money and did everything it wanted for sportsmen and more. There was even money left over to do non-game and endangered species work with sporting money back then. Today, the agency has more lawyers and administrators than it does scientist because it spends as much time in court than it does in the field.
It’s time for everyone who enjoys wildlife and wild places to pony up instead of sportsmen paying the lion’s share of the bill. There are two parts to the solution. First, all hunting and fishing license dollars need to be rededicated to only game and fish programs. This would blow a huge hole in other parts of the DFG budget, and those other programs are important and need funding. Second, the DFG needs a new, permanent funding mechanism for its other programs.
There are two valid models that could accomplish that goal. The first alternative is an annual outdoor user fee. Everyone who does anything from bird watching to hiking to mountain biking on any public land would have to have an annual license and the money would go to the DFG which manages those natural resources for those users. Just like hunters and fishermen pay a fee, other outdoor users would also have to pay the fee to enjoy those same resources. The second alternative is an added state sales tax on outdoor gear to fund the DFG’s broad range of conservation programs statewide, paid for by everyone in the state who buys a wide range of wildlife or outdoor-based products, from wild bird seed to binoculars to backpacking and mountain climbing gear. One is a simple user fee, and the other is an excise tax. Your call.
All I know is that hunters and fishermen shouldn’t have to keep funding far more than they receive. We deserve Crowley Lake-style trout management in waters all over the state. We need more tule elk on public lands. We need more desert water sources for wildlife. We need a lot of things for the state’s hunted and fished game species. Instead of being discriminated against each time we dig into our wallets, we need to see a return on our investment instead of excuses for dismal management.
OUTDOOR CALENDAR – 15feb12
FEBRUARY 18 GAMEBIRD GUZZLER WORK PROJECT: The San Gabriel Valley Chapter of Quail Unlimited will be doing finish work on two gamebird guzzlers north of Palm Springs. Volunteers are needed to help with the project. For more information, contact Robert Armijo at 626-919-7663.
FEBRUARY 18-19 ONTARIO GUN SHOW: The Crossroads of the West Ontario Gun Show will be held 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, at the Ontario Convention Center, Ontario. Admission is $10. The next Ontario gun shows will be May 8-9 and July 28-29. Information, directions, tickets, and $1 off coupons are available at www.crossroadsgunshows.com.
FEBRUARY 18-19 BASS PRO SHOPS HUNTER SAFETY CLASSES: Bass Pro Shops is offering hunter safety classes four days per month on the first and third full weekends, with classes on Saturday and Sunday of each weekend. The classes are all one-day, 10-hour certified hunter safety classes. Classes are required for all first-time California hunters before a hunting license can be purchased. Cost is $20 per person, but each student who passes the course receives a $20 Bass Pro Gift Card. Sign-ups are taken at Bass Pro and class size is limited. For information, call 909-922-5500. A pre-class study course is available at www.dfg.ca.gov/huntered/.
MARCH 3-4 FLY FISHING SHOW: The Fly Fishing Show will be held Saturday and Sunday, March 3-4, at the Pasadena Convention Center, 300 E. Green St., Pasadena. This all-fly-fishing show has a who’s who list of speakers, exhibitors, casting and fly-tying demonstrators, and book authors. Cost is $15 per day or $25 for both days. For more information and directions, go to www.flyfishingshow.com or call 866-481-2393.
MARCH 4 BIGHORN SHEEP CENSUS: Volunteers are needed for the 2012 San Gabriel Mountains bighorn sheep census held each spring since 1979 on Sunday, March 4. Volunteers must be fit and able to hike a mile in rough terrain and have binoculars or a spotting scope. A mandatory orientation meeting will be 6 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at the new Verdemont Community Center and Library in north San Bernardino just off Interstate 215. To sign up go to www.sangabrielbighorn.org or call either 626- 574-5287 or 909-382-2870 to have a volunteer packet mailed to you.
MARCH 7-11 FRED HALL LONG BEACH SHOW: The Fred Hall Show, the West Coast’s premier fishing, boating, hunting, travel and outdoor adventure show, will be held March 7-11 at the Long Beach Convention Center. This is the granddaddy of sportsman’s shows filling the convention center with exhibitors and non-stop seminars and exhibitions. Admission to the Hall Show is $15 for adults, $14 for military and seniors, and kids are free. For more information, go to www.fredhall.com or call 805-389-3339.
MARCH 10 RAAHAUGE’S HUNTER SAFETY CLASS: A one-day, 10-hour certified hunter safety class will be held at Mike Raahauge’s Shooting Enterprises, Norco. Classes are required for all first-time California hunters before a hunting license can be purchased. Cost is $35 per person. The 2012 class dates are April 14, May 5, June 16, July 7, Aug. 11, Aug. 18, Aug. 25, Sept. 8, Oct. 13, Nov. 10, and Dec. 1. Sign-ups are taken at all Turner's Outdoorsman stores. Contact Raahauge’s at 951-735-7981.
MARCH 10 GUN DOG SHOWDOWN: The 23rd Annual Gun Dog Showdown, hosted by the San Gabriel Valley Chapter of Quail Unlimited, is a friendly competition to see which type of bird dog – pointers or flushers – are better. The trial features three chukar with elapsed time and shots fired determining the winner. Cost is $70 for entry and registration with a $65 fee for reruns. There is also a $15 entry charge for the Prado Dog Training Park, Chino. For information and to reserve a run, call Tim Bovard at 909-624-7411.
MARCH 22-25 FRED HALL DEL MAR SHOW: The Fred Hall Show, the West Coast’s premier fishing, boating, hunting, travel and outdoor adventure show, will be held March 22-25 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. This is the one of the two largest sports shows held in Southern California, with hundreds of exhibitors and non-stop seminars and exhibitions. Admission to the Hall Show is $15 for adults, $14 for military and seniors, and kids are free. For more information, go to www.fredhall.com or call 805-389-3339.
MARCH 24 SAN GABRIEL QUAIL UNLIMITED FUND-RAISER BANQUET: The San Gabriel Chapter of Quail Unlimited will be having its annual fund-raising banquet beginning 5:30 p.m., Saturday, March 24 at the Oak Tree Room, 1150 Colorado Blvd., Arcadia. Tickets are $85 each or $120 per couple. Special shotgun raffle is a Winchester Model 101 field. For information, call 866-206-9070.
MARCH 24-25 BAKERSFIELD GUN SHOW: The Central Coast Gun Shows Bakersfield event will be held this Saturday and Sunday at the Kern County Fairgrounds, Bakersfield. The next dates for the Bakersfield gun shows are May 5-6, June 16-17, Aug. 25-26, and Nov. 17-18. For information, call 805-481-6726 or go to www.centralcoastgunshows.com.
MARCH 24-25 COSTA MESA GUN SHOW: The Crossroads of the West Costa Mesa Gun Show will be held 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, at the Orange County Fair and Event Center (Orange County Fairgrounds), Costa Mesa. Admission is $10. The next Costa Mesa show will be June 2-3. Information, directions, tickets, and $1 off coupons are available at www.crossroadsgunshows.com.
For a complete list of HUNTER SAFETY CLASSES held throughout the state, including times, dates, and locations, go to the Department of Fish and Game’s web site at this address: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/huntered/classes.aspx.
For the rules and regulations on GRUNION RUNS, along with a complete schedule and the expected times of the runs, go to this web site address: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/gruschd.asp
CLUBS AND ORGANIZATIONS
The following is a list of hunting, shooting, and fishing clubs and organizations in Southern California with contact information and regular meeting dates:
976-TUNA ROD AND REEL CLUB: The 976-Tuna Rod and Reel Club meets 7 p.m. the first Thursday of each month at Bass Pro Shops, Rancho Cucamonga. Contact Phil Friedman at 310-328-8426.
CALIFORNIA DEER ASSOCIATION (SOUTHERN CALIF0RNIA CHAPTER): The Southern California Chapter of the California Deer Association meets 10 a.m. the second Saturday of each month at Bass Pro Shops, Rancho Cucamonga. Contact Glenn Tessers at 310-429-5222.
CONEJO VALLEY BASS CLUB: The Conejo Valley Bass Club meets 7 p.m. the first Thursday of each month at the Elks Club, Thousand Oaks. Events are the third Saturday. Contact Kevin Gelsinger at 818-951-1630.
DEEP CREEK FLY-FISHERS: Deep Creek Fly-Fishers meets on the fourth Wednesday of each month at the Izaak Walton League clubhouse in Fairmont Park, in Riverside. Go to www.deepcreekflyfishers.org to download a map to the club house. Contact Brett Browning at 909-793-8912.
GOLDEN STATE FLYCASTERS: The Golden State Flycasters and Trout Unlimited Chapter 920 meets 6 to 9 p.m. Monday before the third Thursday of each month at Tio Leo’s Restaurant, Del Mar. Information at www.goldenstateflycasters.org.
HIGH DESERT FLY-FISHERS: The High Desert Fly-Fishers holds its monthly meetings on the second Tuesday of each month at The Apple Valley Fire Conference Center, 19235 Yucca Loma, Apple Valley. Information at hidesertflyfishers.com/wordpressblog/.
NATIONAL WILD TURKEY FEDERATION (High Desert Chapter): The High Desert Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation meets 6:30 p.m. the first Thursday of each month at the Apple Valley Gun Club, 16699 Stoddard Wells Road, Victorville. Contact Karen Shackleford at 760-887-1092.
NATIONAL WILD TURKEY FEDERATION (ORANGE COUNTY CHAPTER): The Orange County Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation meets 6 p.m. the third Tuesday of each month at The Firing Line, 17921 Jamestown Lane, Huntington Beach. Contact Pat Ryan at 714-373-3688 or Casey Rasmussen at 714-377-5859.
ORANCO BOWMEN: The ORANCO Bowmen meet the second Tuesday of each month at the club range, 17504 Pomona Rincon Rd., Chino (Euclid Avenue one block north of the 71 freeway). The range is open to the public on Sundays 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call 909-597-7582. Web site: www.oranco.org.
PLUNGE CREEK COWBOYS: The Plunge Creek Cowboys, a new Cowboy Action Shooting club in the Inland Empire, has shoots the third Saturday of each month at the Inland Fish and Game range on Orange Street in East Highlands. Authentic or replica firearms and garb required. Information: www.plungecreekcowboys.com.
QUAIL FOREVER (HIGH DESERT CHAPTER): The High Desert Chapter of Quail Forever meets 6 p.m. the third Tuesday of each month at the Apple Valley Gun Club. Trap tune-up shoots are the first Sunday of each month beginning 9 a.m., also at Apple Valley Gun Club. Contact Phil Garo at 760-241-9011 or go to the web site at www.highdesertquailforever.org.
REDONDO ROD & GUN CLUB: The Redondo Rod & Gun Club meets 8 p.m. every Thursday of every month at its own clubhouse. The club has promoted hunting, fishing, sport shooting and the outdoors since 1948. The clubhouse is located at 2023 Vanderbilt Lane, Redondo Beach. Contact 310-379-7772.
TURNER'S OUTDOORSMAN ROD AND REEL CLUB: The Turner's Outdoorsman Rod and Reel Club meets 7 p.m. the second Wednesday of each month at Marie Calendar’s Restaurant, 2300 Foothill, Pasadena. Contact Richard Crowe at 626-960-9610.