How is Fish and Game Funded?

Who Funds the Stewardship
of New Hampshire’s Wildlife?
Prepared by the NH Wildlife Coalition

The New Hampshire legislature assigned the responsibility of managing fish and wildlife to the Fish and Game Department. That agency recently celebrated its 150th anniversary. It began as the Fisheries Commission in 1865, expanded to the Commission of Fisheries and Game in 1880, and in 1935, the state legislature created the Fish and Game Department and its governing Commission. Over the years, the duties and responsibilities of Fish and Game have expanded, as have the sources of funds that support them.

Historic Role of License Sales
In the early years, much of the activity of Fish and Game was focused on restoring depleted fisheries and game populations. Hatcheries raised and released fish and some game birds. Trap-and-transfer programs moved game animals from regions where they were relatively abundant to habitats where overhunting had eliminated them. Conservation officers were hired to ensure that poachers did not limit the success of those efforts. Nearly all the funds needed for those efforts came from hunters, anglers, and trappers through the purchase of state-issued licenses.1

From the 1950s to 2000, license sales consistently provided 60-70% of the Department’s annual budget. Relying on those dedicated funds made sense when Fish and Game’s role was rather limited. However, incremental changes to the Department came to a head in the years after 2000. First, sales of resident licenses had been declining for decades. By 2011 (most recent data available), resident and non-resident hunting licenses were down to 56,000 and 164,000 fishing licenses were sold.2 Trapping licenses dropped to 500.3 By 2015, license sales and associated fees contributed only 20% of Fish and Game’s revenue.

New Responsibilities and Additional Sources of Revenue
The second reason for the large decline in the relative contribution of license sales to Fish and Game’s budget was, in recent decades, legislative mandates of the Department were expanded beyond managing fish, game, and furbearers. The current mission of New Hampshire Fish and Game is “to conserve, manage and protect the state’s fish, wildlife and marine resources and their habitats, inform and educate the public, and provide opportunities to use and appreciate these resources.” The Department is now charged with search and rescue, marine fisheries management, providing public boat access, nuisance wildlife control, off-highway recreational vehicle (OHRV) education and enforcement, environmental review, nongame and endangered wildlife management, habitat conservation, and public outreach.

These new mandates provided additional funds, resulting in a complicated mix of revenue sources. Currently, Fish and Game funding falls into several broad categories:

  • OHRV registrations and transfers (34%)
  • federal funds (33%)
  • licenses and associated fees (20%)
  • other agency income (e.g., nongame donations, conservation license plates) (10%)
  • state general funds (3%)

Federal funds come from several sources to address specific mandates.

  • Wildlife Restoration Program (Pittman-Robertson or PR) come from federal excise taxes on guns, ammunition, and archery equipment.
  • Sport Fishery Restoration Program (Dingell-Johnson or DJ) come from federal excise taxes on fishing equipment, motorboats, and boat fuel.
  • State Wildlife Grants (SWG) support restoration of species of greatest conservation need, often those that are threatened or endangered.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grants support marine conservation and education.

Of the two largest federal sources, PR and DJ, a distinction should be made regarding the portion of funds that are credited to purchases used in the pursuit of game (23% of PR funds)4 and fish (45% of DJ funds)5. However, a larger portion of those funds can be attributed to the general public through purchases that are not associated with hunting or fishing (e.g., handguns and pleasure boats). SWG and NOAA funds have no connection to hunting, fishing or license sales. Here’s a summary of the 2015 budget.

     All revenue sources = $30 million                                   NH-only  = $20 million







Nationwide, funding of state wildlife agencies has become more diverse as broader needs and interests are being addressed. The New Hampshire Wildlife Coalition believes this strengthens our Fish and Game Department and benefits fish and wildlife populations throughout the State. But it also means that those broader interests should be involved in policy development. See the NHWC’s fact sheet on “Recommendations to Strengthen the NHFG.” If we consider all sources of revenue, hunters, anglers, and trappers contributed 28% of the $30 million budget.  If we exclude federal funds and consider just the revenue generated within New Hampshire ($20 million), sales of licenses and dedicated fees totaled 30% of the New Hampshire-exclusive revenue.

1NH Fish and Game Biennial Reports, State Archives, Concord, NH
2 US Fish and Wildlife Service 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation
3NH Fish and Game 2011 Wildlife Harvest Summary
52011 National Recreational Boating Survey

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