June 2018
From Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries

License Dollars at Work

Where do your hunting and fishing license dollars go?

It seems like quite a bit of my time each year is spent "beating dead horses." I know that sounds strange, but here is what I mean.

The Harvest Record Regulation has been on the books since 2007, and I still must preach at seminars each year about filling out the harvest record before moving a harvested animal. Inevitably, several people in the crowd who have hunted for years have no clue what I am talking about.

Another example is the "How We Are Funded" speech. I’ve given this lecture hundreds of times over the past five years and I still run into people who think we receive general fund tax dollars to provide services.

A final example is the "I don’t hunt or fish. Why should I buy a license?" comment I get at many of the functions I attend each year. This one above all else hits a nerve with me.

So, rather than me beat that dead horse again, I wanted to give Chief Matt Weathers an opportunity to highlight one – using a timely example – of the many reasons why everyone should buy a license.

 

 

On March 19, 2018, the National Weather Service issued a storm advisory and predicted a possible tornado. At around 9 p.m., a tornado struck Jacksonville, home to Jacksonville State University and the WFF District II office. Jacksonville and JSU were heavily damaged.

Law Enforcement Chief Matt Weathers:

One hundred and ten years ago, when the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources was created, the great majority of this state’s population hunted and fished. It was a way of life and, in most cases, served to feed households. Today, hunting and fishing remains a way of life for many, but these activities are seen more as recreational and less for the subsistence of families.

Today, as they have since the 1930s, the hunters and fishermen of Alabama pay for their local game warden and many of the state’s conservation programs through license-purchase revenues without using any of the state’s general fund budget monies. Alabama sportsmen provide additional law-enforcement officers in a way that goes very much unnoticed by the average Alabamian.

Though times have changed, the day-to-day activities of your local conservation enforcement officer remain, in many ways, as they were a century ago. Hunting and fishing license-compliance checks are a necessary daily routine; and responding to and investigating reports of illegal hunting activities are a staple.

Modern conservation enforcement officers, however, have a much broader spectrum of duties. They teach hunter-education courses and investigate hunting accidents, teach courses at the state’s regional police academies and are constantly seeking to educate the public about conservation-related issues. They also assist all other state and local law-enforcement agencies on a routine basis. This assistance to other law-enforcement agencies is where Alabama’s nonhunting and nonfishing population receives a great benefit provided by their hunting and fishing peers.

Over the last two decades, officers of the Law Enforcement Section of the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division have deployed to assist in the relief efforts.

 

On the evening of March 19, 2018, the National Weather Service issued a storm advisory and predicted a possible tornado event impacting Northeast Alabama, northern Calhoun County specifically. At around 9 p.m., a tornado struck the city of Jacksonville, home to Jacksonville State University and the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division District II office. Jacksonville and JSU were heavily damaged.

Conservation enforcement officers from across District II responded immediately.

"I loaded my truck with the tools I knew would be valuable to help people," Conservation Enforcement Lieutenant Michael Casalini stated. "We’ve responded to events like this many times over the years and have come to understand what is needed during times like these."

Conservation Enforcement Officers assisted with search and rescue, traffic control and general response to calls for assistance.

"The people of Jacksonville genuinely appreciated the help we were able to give them," Conservation Enforcement Officer Ben Kiser said. "The simplest things such as cutting up a tree blocking someone’s driveway helped tremendously."

Over the days to come, over 20 game wardens would assist in Jacksonville. Each of those acts of assistance was provided by our license-buying sportsmen.

 

Cutting up a tree blocking someone’s driveway helped tremendously and was greatly appreciated.

ADCNR is actively involved with the Alabama Emergency Management Agency. When the Emergency Operations Center in Clanton is activated, ADCNR officers are among those who respond to staff the center until the event is over. When a major weather event threatens our state, the response efforts, supply chain and restoration of order are all coordinated through the EOC.

Over the last two decades, officers of the Law Enforcement Section of the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division have deployed to assist in the relief efforts for Hurricane Ivan in Alabama and to Mississippi for Hurricane Katrina. In 2011, officers were sent to several counties across our state to assist with lifesaving efforts in the wake of the April 27 tornado event. They have been deployed to countless smaller-scale local disasters in the years since. The relief efforts in many of these cases lasted for weeks, and the benefit of having trained, equipped and eager game wardens who could respond cannot be measured. Your local game warden has a wealth of experience in operating independently in terrible conditions and making critical lifesaving decisions when the state is in need.

Take comfort in the fact that you, as a licensed sportsman of our state, provide for this and that, if you find yourself in need, Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers will be there to assist as they have for over 110 years.

 

As you can see, your hunting and fishing license dollars do a lot more than simply manage, protect, conserve and enhance the wildlife and aquatic resources for the sustainable benefit of the people of Alabama. Hunters and fishermen gladly buy licenses each year that help support services for the entire state. So, do your part and purchase a license … and help me stop beating this dead horse!

 

 

 

Chuck Sykes is director of the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.