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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

Department of Environmental Conservation
Conservation Fund - Sources and Uses of Funds


Issued: October 09, 2013
Link to full audit report 2012-S-134

Purpose
To determine whether Conservation Fund (Fund) revenues are accounted for properly and whether expenditures made from the Fund are consistent with applicable State Law and regulations.

Background
The Fund was established in 1925 to provide a stable, long-term source of revenue to help support the Department of Environmental Conservation's (Department) fish, wildlife and marine resources program (Program), which includes activities such as operating fish hatcheries and game farms, and managing fish and wildlife populations. The Fund's primary source of revenue is the sale of licenses to sportsmen for hunting, fishing and trapping. Environmental Conservation Law established the Conservation Fund Advisory Board (Board), which advises Department management regarding the Fund, as well as fish and wildlife programs, and also reports to the Governor and Legislature. For the three State fiscal years 2009-2010 through 2011-2012, the Department's annual cost of carrying out its Program responsibilities ranged between $109 million and $121 million. During this period, the Fund provided annual Program support ranging between $40 million and $45 million based on annual license revenues that totaled $47 million to $69 million per year. In 2012-2013, sporting license sales generated almost $50 million, while Program expenditures from the Fund totaled about $47 million. As of March 31, 2013, the balance in the Fund was $90.7 million.

Key Findings

  • Fund revenues have been properly accounted for, and expenditures have been related to the Department's Program responsibilities, consistent with applicable State law and regulation.
  • The balance in the Fund has increased to over $90 million since license fees were raised in 2009, largely due to a one-time spike of over 100,000 lifetime license sales, the fees from which must be invested in a Trust Account and are not available to fund current operations.
  • Capital projects increased in the years immediately following the license fee increase, while direct Program expenditures initially declined. More recently, the Fund has begun funding a greater share of the Department's law enforcement costs, which were shifted to other funding sources before the fee increase. In 2012-2013, the Fund supported 113 fewer Department staff positions than it did eight years earlier: 68 fewer law enforcement staff, 29 fewer support positions and 16 fewer direct Program personnel.

Key Recommendations

  • No Recommendations

Other Related Audits/Reports of Interest

Department of Environmental Conservation: Environmental Protection Fund (2008-S-121)


State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: John Buyce
Phone:(518) 474-3271; Email: StateGovernmentAccountability@osc.state.ny.us
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236