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Fishing and Hunting Organizations Call For Reallocation Of Tax Money From Outdoor Goods To DNR

DNR Truck

Hopkins says some conservation officers are driving DNR trucks with over 200,000 miles on them. (WFIU/WTIU News)

Many outdoor sportsmen and conservationists in Indiana feel the Department of Natural Resources is underfunded, specifically the Fish and Wildlife Division.

No tax money from the general fund goes to Fish and Wildlife services. The division’s only funding comes from user fees, like hunting and fishing licenses. Those fees haven’t increased in 15 years.

During the last legislative session, the Indiana Sportsman's Roundtable, an outdoor hunting and fishing conservationist group, pushed for House Bill 1376, which would reallocate tax money that goes to the general fund to the Fish and Wildlife Division of the DNR, but it died in the house. 

Gene Hopkins, the president of the Indiana Sportsman’s Roundtable, says they want some tax money on outdoor equipment reallocated to the Fish and Wildlife Division.

He says taxes on firearms, firearm ammunition, and archery equipment already go toward wildlife services based on how many registered hunters and fishermen there are in the state.

“Some equipment such as binoculars which are used by sportsmen, whether they be hunters, fishermen, whether it be bird watchers, whether it be photographers, there are existing taxes which are already being collected from those sales," he says. "But they're being put to the general fund, not to conservation efforts.”

He says other states like Georgia and Missouri already put those taxes toward wildlife services.

His organization is working with environmental groups in the state to push for the reallocation to be made in 2020. They plan on taking various legislators into the field this summer to demonstrate issues with the funding as it is. 

"People think conservationists and environmentalists are on different ends of the spectrum, but we're not," he says. "Ninety-eight percent of the time we agree with each other. If we can have the Hoosier Environmental Council sitting with the Indiana Sportsmen's Roundtable, and the Nature Conservancy and the Wildlife Federation, with all of our different memberships and our different constituencies, we could be a very powerful force."

Hopkins says because of the funding shortage, many lands are not properly maintained and the DNR has had conservation officer and wildlife biologist shortages.

In a statement, the DNR says they acknowledge a national decline in the number of hunting and fishing licenses being sold. They are trying to reverse this by holding free fishing days and learn to hunt events.

Reporter Emma Atkinson contributed to this story. 

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