How is MassWildlife funded?
MassWildlife is primarily funded through the sale of hunting, freshwater fishing, and trapping licenses, permits, and stamps, in addition to dedicated federal funds from the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program. A small remainder of the budget comes from bond initiatives, donations, and general funds. Unlike other state agencies, MassWildlife receives only a small percentage of its operational budget from state general funds, such as those derived from state income or sales taxes. All funds from freshwater fishing, hunting, and trapping licenses and dedicated federal funds go directly into the Inland Fish and Game Fund, which can only be used for administering programs by MassWildlife.
Why was a license increase needed?
Prior to 2022, MassWildlife had not raised license fees since 1996. Over that 26 years, MassWildlife was able to maintain its high level of services and programs through responsible fiscal management without needing to raise license fees. But with inflation up nearly 67% since 1996, increased agency responsibilities, and steadily increasing state-mandated costs such as payroll taxes and health insurance, revenue had not been meeting expenses for several years. Additionally, sporting and hunting license sales had declined 20% and 50%, respectively, since 1996, and the number of statutory free licenses issued, including to those 70 years and older, is now over 27,000 per year. Periodic license increases are an unfortunate necessity to keep pace with inflation and general costs of operations. The increase in license fees will fund core operations and maintain the high-quality programs and services constituents have come to expect.
Which fees changed and when do they go into effect?
Many of the new fees will be phased in over five years beginning in 2022.
How do license fees provide programs and services for hunters, anglers, and trappers?
License buyers are MassWildlife’s partners in keeping wildlife populations healthy and abundant, protecting their habitat, and maintaining access for outdoor recreation. Fees from fishing, hunting, and trapping licenses, permits, and fees provide a variety of services for sportsmen and -women, including the scientific management of fish and wildlife; trout and pheasant stocking; habitat management; and educational programs such as Angler Education, Hunter Education, Becoming an Outdoors Woman, Junior Conservation Camp, Teaching with Trout, Junior Duck Stamp, and the National Archery in the Schools Program. MassWildlife also manages and protects over 226,000 acres of conserved lands and waters open to the public for hunting, fishing, trapping, and wildlife viewing.
How does MassWildlife’s work benefit Massachusetts?
All Massachusetts residents and visitors benefit from MassWildlife’s work to conserve wildlife, protect open space, and preserve clean water and air. MassWildlife manages over 226,000 acres of conserved lands and waters open to the public for fishing, hunting, trapping, hiking, wildlife viewing, and other forms of passive outdoor recreation. Wildlife-related recreation in Massachusetts generates about $2 billion in retail sales annually and supports about 35,000 jobs. Through science-based management and strong educational programs, MassWildlife ensures healthy fish and wildlife populations, abundant natural resources, and scenic landscapes that contribute to a strong outdoor economy and improve the quality of life for all citizens.
How will MassWildlife fund conservation in the future?
MassWildlife’s efforts to conserve fish and wildlife for the benefit of all citizens relies heavily on the revenue generated from fishing and hunting licenses, yet less than 5% of Massachusetts residents fish, hunt, or trap. The challenge of funding wildlife conservation in the 21st century is not unique to Massachusetts. Most states are heavily dependent on license sales and federal aid from the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program to fund their state’s conservation programs. Nationally, participation in hunting and fishing is declining, along with license revenue, and state agencies are finding they cannot sustain themselves by relying solely on license fees. As a result, several states, including Missouri, Virginia, Texas, Georgia, and Arkansas, have implemented solutions to provide dedicated agency funding beyond just revenue from the sale of hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses. The Commonwealth’s economy and quality of life depend on healthy landscapes, sustainable fish and wildlife populations, and access to nature for all people. Massachusetts must also meet the challenge of shifting to a more equitable and sustainable funding model for the future of wildlife conservation.