Where Do License Dollars Go?

Author: NCWRC blogger/Tuesday, September 6, 2022/Categories: Blog, Conservation, Education, Fishing, Licensing

Where Do License Dollars Go?

NCWRC Staff Blog Post by Madeline David, Angler Engagement Coordinator

Buying a license to fish in North Carolina isn’t just the lawful thing to do, it’s a way of giving back to our shared natural world. Your license dollars – whether it’s to fish, hunt or trap – are aiding in a bigger effort to conserve our state’s wildlife resources.

When you buy a license from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC), your money funds conservation projects and programs, big and small, that benefit fish, wildlife and, ultimately, the environment! License dollars also support the general operations of the NCWRC so we can achieve those efforts.

How exactly your money is utilized depends on the license purchased. With a lifetime license, your money goes into the Wildlife Endowment Fund.

“The Wildlife Endowment Fund provides funding for larger projects and expenditures that would otherwise not be possible through the annual operating budget,” Inland Fisheries Division Chief Christian Waters explained.

This fund was established by the state legislature in 1980 with the purpose of “furthering the conservation of wildlife resources and the efficient operation of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.” The NCWRC can only tap into the interest on the fund, not the principal. As of June 2022, the balance of the Wildlife Endowment Fund was $146 million.

Wondering what kind of wildlife conservation efforts we’re talking about? In FY21 and FY22, a grand total of nearly $11M from the Wildlife Endowment Fund was approved to spend on projects such as:

  • Alligator management efforts of GPS-cellular tracking, tagging kits and other alligator-biologist interaction equipment (2021).
  • Improvements to the Big Bradley Falls Trail on the Green River Game Land, which provide safety measures for viewing the falls to prevent injury or death for hikers (2021).
  • Repairments to the John E. Pechmann Fishing Education Center pond, which finish electrical upgrade restoration (2021).
  • Establish a necropsy facility at the Wilkes Depot to provide Wildlife Management staff with an operational base for wildlife disease surveillance and sampling efforts (2022).
  • Purchase and use of four drones to equip Wildlife Law Enforcement Officers in different regions with a drone and pilot to conduct aerial surveillance or assist other NCWRC divisions (2022).
  • ‘Pathways to Wildlife Relevancy,’ allocating funds for a research/survey project that will greatly impact and improve the NCWRC’s programming and marketing efforts to ensure constituents receive the most out of the NCWRC (2022).

It’s clear the types of projects vary greatly. While some don’t tangibly, directly impact fish and wildlife conservation, there is still an indirect impact.

With 10-day and annual licenses, on the other hand, your money is used in “the Agency operational budget to fund day-to-day activities,” Waters said. This looks like other wildlife programs and projects, some smaller scale and some larger, multi-year initiatives, along with general operations of the NCWRC – which, yes, may include replacing a broken office chair.

In FY21, the NCWRC collected $39M in license sales, fees and fines. It is the largest source of the NCWRC’s revenue, just ahead of federal funds.

Speaking of federal funds, there’s a link between license sales and money the NCWRC receives from the federal government. Did you know that every time you purchase fishing equipment in the U.S., you’re actually helping fund state wildlife agencies, like the NCWRC? That’s because the manufacturer of that equipment has paid a tax to the federal government that ultimately comes back to us.

“The number of licenses sold help determine how much Sport Fish Restoration (SFR) funds are received by the Agency,” Waters said, “SFR funds are apportioned annually to states, calculated based on the number of licensed anglers and its water area.”

For every $1 spent from license sales, the NCWRC receives $3 in SFR funds for eligible fish-related programs or activities, like the Community Fishing Program. This federal law, otherwise known as the Dingell-Johnson Act, was passed by Congress in 1950.

“While the public often assumes we are funded by state tax dollars, it is the anglers, through purchases of fishing licenses and fishing equipment, that fund a substantial portion of the state’s fisheries management and aquatic conservation activities,” Waters explained.

A similar federal law exists for guns and ammunition, with funding allocated for states’ hunter education efforts, management and conservation of wildlife and the management of game lands.

“The NCWRC’s conservation efforts are expensive and require consistent funding, but they’re important,” Waters said. “The cost of a license is small compared to the benefit the angler, hunter – and any member of the public, really – receives as we strive to protect and manage our beautiful state’s wildlife resources.”

Photo credit: Falyn Owens, NCWRC
Description: License dollars fund many conservation projects and programs, such as alligator management efforts.

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