Editorial: Programs need sufficient funds

Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission may be facing a $400,000 deficit by next summer. Funds must be raised in order to ensure that endangered species, such as manatees and panthers, are still protected effectively. The commission should create new sources of funding so that its programs and services do not suffer.

Ironically, the funding to conserve land and preserve species comes from hunting and fishing licenses and permits. However, applications for such permits and licenses has dropped in the past years, thus causing a decrease in state conservation funding. Specialty license plates are also a source of funding, but with so many to choose from, funding for programs, such as the Save the Manatee Club, is decreasing.

While the environment is important and absolutely crucial to the livelihood of Floridians, its impact on the economy is where many people are concerned. And they should be – Florida’s lure of hunting, fishing and nature-watching yields approximately $7.8 billion in tourism revenue.

This, along with preservation, are enough to warrant changes in the current system of funding. For instance, some permit and license pricing has not changed since the 1920s. According to the St. Petersburg Times, a game farm permit is only $5.

Updating and increasing prices are a good start, but they should be done incrementally so as not to cripple existing businesses and possessors of permits and licenses.

Another avenue to explore is creating permits for display of exotic animal possession at places such as Busch Gardens and Disney. These are large companies that bring tourists to Florida, but are also often unfairly privy to special treatment and exemptions.

Florida’s wildlife commission needs funding to continue protecting endangered animals and land. Without these, Florida’s economy will become an endangered species itself.