Trail talk: Go figure
I must make a correction on figures presented in the January 25th article , Freeloaders no more: Get the patch. The error was in reporting on funding sources for the Department of Environmental Conservation. The article stated that "Presently, hunters, fishers and trappers directly support 66 percent of the DEC budget through license sales and an excise tax on their equipment." Actually, the total revenues generated exclusively by license fees, about $38 million, constitute less than 6% of the DECs total budget of $1.2 billion. Total license fee revenues, at $38 million, comprise about 29 percent of the entire Conservation Fund, which only partially funds the Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources. Additional funding from the General Fund have been necessary to keep the Conservation Fund solvent. The Conservation Fund balance of about $129,007,000, is generated from timber sales, royalties from oil and gas leases and storage, acreage rentals, Gifts to Wildlife, fines, gifts and donations is still not total budget for the Division of Fish, Wildlife, and Marine Resources budget. I believe it is important for sportsman and women to understand these figures; for it is a common myth that the entire DEC budget is supported by sportsmans license sales. Sportsmen do not pay for all of the state trails, leantos, boat launches, outhouses, nor the entire salaries of foresters, surveyors, Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation Officers. All New York state taxpayers contribute to the DECs overall budget, including funds dedicated to the Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources. This funding comes via the General Fund through taxes from sportsmen and women, hikers, bikers, birders, skiers, snowshoers, paddlers and all other residents of the state. Currently, the population of New York state stands at about 18,175,000. Yet, just 1,259,906 resident licenses are sold annually, roughly 7 percent of the total residents. Obviously, considerable funding comes from many people who do not utilize the outdoor environment at all. Although sportsmen do contribute at a higher level, through license sales, Habitat Stamps, Habitat license plate sales and a Federal excise tax that is imposed on hunting and angling equipment; the fact remains that present license fees are no longer adequate to meet the assigned costs. While revenues are stabilizing around $37 million, costs will continue to escalate. Even if license fees escalate, there simply are not enough sportsmen and women in the state to make up the difference The fact remains that if we are truly concerned with conserving, protecting and enhancing wild lands, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the public; all users must be willing to contribute. Others speak their mind
While the subject of user fees is of concern to many, Ive asked representatives of several user groups for an opinion on this issue. Neil Woodworth, is the executive director of the 33,000 member Adirondack Mountain Club, (ADK). Established in the 1920s, the ADK is an advocacy group for hikers, paddlers and other non-consumptive recreationists. They are recognized leaders in trail development, outdoor education and environmental issues. Mr. Woodworth responded, I believe we (ADK) would support the concept if the funds generated were dedicated to the improvement of trails, put ins and portages. But wed have to be assured where the money would go,, he continued, If it didnt just disappear into the general fund, I think people would buy into it. Tony Goodwin is the executive director of the Adirondack Trail Improvement Society as well as the Adirondack Ski Touring Council which is responsible for the Jackrabbit Ski Trail that stretches from Keene to Paul Smiths. Goodwin explained, I can accept the basic premise but it is difficult to define the implementation. He also suggested that Youve got to follow the money and know where it is going. Due to the difficulty in controlling access points to state land, Goodwin suggested that fees only be charged for overnight camping, not for other access. Sam Grimone, a former owner of the Blue Line Sport Shop in Saranac Lake and an avid sportsman voiced similar concerns. Grimone said, Id be for it, but I dont know if you could have a hiking license. The infrastructure may cost more than the revenue. And hiking is different than canoeing which requires a boat launch, it would be harder to enforce. Grimone did point out that the mechanism to deliver the product has already been established with the DECALS system. The computerized system is already intact, he revealed, Sports shops and town clerks currently issue licenses and habitat stamps, so it could be developed quite easily. The general consensus seems to be that although it is evident that such a program is necessary, the implementation would be extremely difficult. By far, the overriding response was, Show me the money! How do you insure that the revenues generated arent swallowed up by the Albany political machine? That may prove to be the greatest hurdle of them all. Calculating the impacts of hikers on Northern Forest trails
I recently came across an interesting equation for calculating the impacts of hiking on trail erosion and degradation. The equation used a simple formula based on a hiker traveling over the thin soil and forest duff of trails typical throughout Northeastern forests. It is estimated that a Vibram type, lug sole, the type often found on hiking boots, displaces nearly a half ounce of soil on average, whether by removing it completely or loosening it up to be carried away by rain, winds, snowmelt or other erosive factors. The formula calculates the trail mileage, divided by stride ( 3 feet on average) to determine number of strides which are multiplied by .5 ounce (average lug sole displacement). Finally, the total is divided by 16 ounces to convert the figure back to a per pound total. Based on the formula, a person hiking one mile (averaging about 1760 strides) will disturb or displace an estimated 110 pounds of soil. Compound this total by a party of four taking a ten mile hike and the figure reveals nearly 4400 pounds of earth moved. Hiker's impact on Adirondack trail systems takes on a new meaning when calculating the estimated 150,000- 200,000 visitors that travel to the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness Area annually. In such circumstances, hiking can no longer be looked at in terms of mere footprints. This is earth moving on a scale of tonnage.