King for a day, what would you do?

Stifler

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Do you ever think about the saying, “If I were king for a day?" I do from time to time. It leads me to this idea I have had for years. What if we had a small sales tax or a minor deduction from our monthly or yearly income in Montana to support FWP?

I’d like to know your thoughts. If you were in charge for a day, what would you change to help conservation in your state, or country you hunt? For me it’s Montana.

I’m not an expert like Ben Lamb or Randy Newburg, or claim to be. I'm sure my idea has cons. I also know taxes don’t always end up where they're supppsed to (HB442).

I would implement a tax to support FWP’s existing budget and then use the extra from license sales staying much more true to a non-resident cap. Biologists would have a large say in what’s sustainable. Public opinion would still matter in management, but if something isn’t working, they would present multiple biologists to recommend multiple options for the public to vote, and comment on. It might mean fewer opportunities, but we need to find better ways to increase wildlife, habitats, research, hire more wardens, and so on. That takes a budget large enough for FWP to be proactive, not mainly reactive. They have their wins too, times are just changing fast in my opinion. Only when they see a significant budget increase can we expect better conservation efforts. I believe that FWP’s decision-making is often budgetary limitations.

If I were king for a day, here’s my plan: A dedicated state tax or sales tax to fund FWP’s operational expenses. The money from hunting licenses sales, federal funding, and other permits, would be earmarked for habitat improvements, specific conservation programs, species management, buying smart land parcels to increase public areas or freeing landlocked parcels, etc.

•Proposed Budget: Significantly increase the 2023 budget to approximately $339 million by 2030. This increase includes the current budget of $165 million, plus an estimated $174 million from taxes, with the additional revenue from license sales and federal funding. The rationale is that investing in conservation, for all species from mule deer, cleaner fisheries, all the way down to porcupines, grouse, and insects. The wildlife protection, justifies the substantial budget, as it addresses diverse environmental needs.

• Each Montanan contributes: If every resident chipped in $150 annually, directly supporting the FWP. $12.50 cents a month.

• Projected Revenue: With Montana’s population growth (currently around 1.12 million est. 2022), we could bring in an estimated $174 million a year by 2030.

Population-Based Funding Model:

• Annual Contribution: I propose an annual contribution of $150 from each Montana resident, which would be allocated directly to the FWP.

• Current Population: Montana’s population stands at approximately 1.12 million as of 2022.

• Projected Population Growth: Forecasts show Montana’s population will grow by approximately 14% over the next 30 years, reaching 1.16 million by 2030. (Forever population will grow in MT I believe)

• Revenue Projection:

• Current Population (2022): 1,122,878

• Annual Contribution per Resident: $150

• Projected Population (2030): 1,160,000 (estimated)

• Total Annual Revenue for 2030 Without License Sales: $174,000,000 (estimated)

Or Estimated Sales Tax Strategy:

Using the total retail sales, we can estimate the sales tax rate:

Sales Tax Rate=$174,000,000 (budget)÷$16,940,000,000 (MT GDP retail sales)×100≈1.03%

Considering that retail sales are just a part of overall sales, the actual rate might need to be higher or lower to reach the same revenue target.

What We Might See:

• Better Conservation: With steady funding, FWP can more effectively protect our ecosystems and wildlife. No more overselling of tags (even if it’s a loss in season structure or opportunities). More time to manage the wildlife, less time worrying where they need to displace tag sales to reach a budget. Be able to add more animals back to the land. Money will always be needed for conservation. Let the biologists manage these districts more individually, than broad regions. I believe this is also the best way to keep us a opportunity state.

• License Revenue Usage: Redirect all license revenues towards on-the-ground conservation work, including habitat restoration, species management, more public land acquisitions, and increasing block management, cleaner fisheries, etc.

• Stable Funding: A dedicated tax would provide a reliable revenue for FWP operations, wardens, biologists, equipment, hunter/recreational education programs, etc.

• More Public Land: License funds would help buy land, protecting habitats and keeping public spaces open. Through strategic land purchases, or block management, we can ensure the preservation of Montana’s natural heritage for future generations. This also would spread hunting pressure.

• Continued Long-term Research: With this model for funding, we could have a better budget to hire, and work any concerns in region/unit-specific areas for all species. The more money we have, the less species will have to take a back seat to long-term research and goals.

In conclusion, this funding would offer what I think to be a sustainable way to support wildlife conservation. It would ensure FWP has the resources it needs while investing in the future of our state’s natural treasures.

•The Hard Part: Ensuring fiscal autonomy for the department would be necessary, and likely a publicly voted FWP commission. The members of the commission couldn't be appointed by the governor, or "retired". If Montana ever did consider the implementation of a tax to support FWP funding, it would be crucial to establish a framework that ensures fiscal autonomy for the agency. Taking inspiration from Wyoming’s model. Montana could benefit from a similar approach. This would protect the agency from the appropriations process that often introduces political influence into wildlife management decisions. Montana’s policy would have to stipulate that while general fund dollars (tax dollars) must be approved by the Legislature for operational costs, the revenue generated from licenses and federal funds would be used directly by FWP. This direct allocation would require the approval of the commission, similar to Wyoming’s system. Such a structure would give FWP the ability to manage and allocate funds with greater efficiency and less political interference, ensuring that wildlife management decisions are based on science and public interest rather than shifting political landscapes. Providing FWP with fiscal autonomy, and a public appointed commission we could ensure that the agency has the necessary resources to fulfill its duty effectively, without undue political influence. Protecting the landscape, and wildlife for future generations.

What is something you would do if you were king for a day for your state or country?
 
The only difference I would make to your plan is to make folks who enroll in Block Management or allow public access tax exempt from your tax. The rest of us pay.
 
 
I believe the structure of hunting season is designed to satisfy the tag sales. If the budget allowed, the length of the seasons could be tailored for each region, down to specific units, if needed. For example, I will use R6 imagine if 15,000 people want to hunt, 4000 of them want to go to unit x within r6. They purchase their tags, and once all tags are sold, FWP could then decide the season’s duration. Hunters might end up with a season as short as a week or as long as four-five weeks. The outcome would be more unpredictable if season dates didn’t come out untill after tags were purchased. This approach could also prevent overcrowding in certain areas, as hunters wouldn’t know in advance whether they’ll get an extended season during the rut or be limited to October, would all be based on what is sustainable for each region/unit.

All in all, season dates and structure could literally be whatever if they had the money, the one you provided. The one Gerald, Randy and group have currently proposed. It could literally be structured anyway if money wasn't a issue for the department.
 
TLDR

I would build a big beautiful wall around the great state of Montana. It would be Yuge. I would also deport the transplants and restore western Montana to its natural beauty.
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Iowa voted in 2010 the next time the sales tax increased 1/3 of the 1% raise would go to the fund Natural resources. 14 years later and we are still asking the legislatures to raise the state sales tax.
My first thought as well. IWILL is primarily voluntary runoff management projects on private land. Everyone benefits from clean water.

Even so, opposition from the current political environment is stiff. 2023 legislative session brought us 4000 ac. public land to the chopping block (p. 46), elimination of the codified goal of expanding our public lands, and attempted to prohibit the DNR from acquiring any land whatsoever. 2024 session a bill seeking to limit any auctioned property from becoming public got close, but ultimately was not passed.
 
I would add a public lands history (perhaps 2 weeks) part of the high school curriclum that includes the uses, fees, and management approach in the high school curriculum.

Maybe then western residents wouldnt vote to their detriment.
 
My first thought as well. IWILL is primarily voluntary runoff management projects on private land. Everyone benefits from clean water.

Even so, opposition from the current political environment is stiff. 2023 legislative session brought us 4000 ac. public land to the chopping block (p. 46), elimination of the codified goal of expanding our public lands, and attempted to prohibit the DNR from acquiring any land whatsoever. 2024 session a bill seeking to limit any auctioned property from becoming public got close, but ultimately was not passed.
The biggest problem with IWll is the estimated pot of money is huge and everyone wants to get their sticky fingers on it, but the people voted it in with a breakdown of how the money would be divided across natural resources.

Many people I have talked to say they don’t want iwll because it will do away with the local option sales tax. When in reality it will generate more money than a LOST does because right now they aren’t able to collect the local sales tax on internet sales and another 1/3 of that 1 % could be used to replace LOST.

Representative Dawson has some great insight on LOST and IWLL he is proposing this and he feels it’s the only way to get IWLL passed unfortunately.
 
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