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Lawmakers look to address Conservation Fund concerns

A group of lawmakers from the North Country want Gov. Andrew Cuomo to address concerns surrounding the state's Conservation Fund.

The fund consists of money generated by hunting, fishing and trapping licensing fees. The funds are supposed to be used to support outdoor recreation and sporting opportunities.

But the chairman of the fund's advisory board says the state Division of the Budget has repeatedly denied requests to use the money for its intended purpose - that is, maintaining trails, programs, and other related services.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers say rumors have surfaced that the state will raid the fund.

Those rumors - and the DOB's reluctance to release funding for outdoor-related purposes - have prompted lawmakers from upstate New York to write Cuomo, urging him to clear the air, so to speak.

Assemblyman Tony Jordan says hunting and fishing are essential to the upstate economy. He notes that the chairman of the state's Conservation Fund Advisory Board, Jason Kemper, recently told him that the fund was being misused.

"When we're being told by the chairman that the money is not being used as required by law, it raises a red flag with me," Jordan said.

Kemper said that the Conservation Fund carries a significant balance - more than $20 million.

"We have 20 million in the bank because DOB has not released any of those funds that sportsmen licenses have put forward," he said. "Our biggest issue was the large surplus that we have, yet we can't fill hatchery positions or vacant positions, but we continue to pay licensing fees and that surplus continues to grow."

Kemper notes that about a year ago, the state Department of Environmental Conservation imposed a $10 fee for a saltwater fishing license.

But that license was repealed earlier this year, leaving freshwater anglers, hunters, and trappers footing the bill for the conservation fund.

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