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DWR knows its past, wants public input on its future

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources recently completed a wildlife strategic plan that explains in detail just where it is today with respect to everything from budgeting to technology to big game numbers.

Now it's asking the public - hunters, fishermen and the non-consumptive user - to step forward and help it decide where it should be in 15 years.The 10-page plan, or statement of facts, was compiled by Alan Clark of the DWR and is available to the public.

Clark explained that this is a starting point. "Now we're asking people to look at the plan, and then tell us if they agree with the direction we're headed or should we be going in another direction. Other states have done this, some with very good results.

"With the rapid increase in population here in Utah, we need to know what we're going to do in the future with respect to such things as habitat concerns and just who the users of the resources will be in the future," he said.

The plan will be presented to various groups as well as individuals. Anyone who would like a copy of the plan can contact the DWR either through the mail (1594 W. North Temple, Salt Lake City,UT 84114) or by phone (538-4705).

In the back of the plan book there is a page asking for a response to the plans and sug-ges-tions.

Information will be gathered through the first two weeks of March, compiled and then presented to the Utah Wildlife Board in early April for approval.

Among the facts stated in the report are:

- The DWR received $31.8 million in revenue in fiscal year 1996 from five major sources: $17.5 million from licenses and user fees; $6 million from federal excise tax on hunting and fishing equipment; $2 million from the habitat license; $3.3 million from the general fund; and $3 million from cooperative agreements and grants.

- The DWR addresses the impacts of depredation through prevention (herding, fencing, division crops, killing animals by agency personnel and public hunting) and compensation (monetary payments and mitigation permits for resale). It paid more than $500,000 in direct payments and fencing last year.

- Utah is home to 727 species of vertebrate wildlife (74 fish, 17 amphibians, 55 reptiles, 424 birds and 157 mammals), including 62 introduced or exotic species, and thousands of species of invertebrates. The number of vertebrates species identified by the DWR as "species of concern" has increased from 64 in 1976 to 118 in 1997.

- Over the past 15 years, the population of all big game species, with the exception of mule deer, have increased, resulting in expanding viewing and hunting opportunities.

- Black bear populations have increased over the past 20 years and should remain healthy. Cougar populations have a statewide distribution. The cougar is the most abundant large predator in Utah. Numbers appear to have grown, but recent increases in harvest have stabilized or reduced populations in some areas.

- About 68 percent of the land in Utah is publicly owned. In some southern Utah counties, more than 80 percent of the land is under public ownership; conversely, in many northern Utah counties, where most of the state's population is located, more than 50 percent is privately owned.

- Utah's population doubled from one million to two million over the past 25 years and is expected to hit three million by 2015.

- In 1996, Utah had an estimated 406,000 anglers (65 percent residents), 143,000 hunters (79 percent residents) and 433,000 participants in nonresidential wildlife-watching activities (47 percent residents). Since 1991, this is an increase of 30 percent in fishermen, an increase of 4 percent in wildlife-watching and a decrease of 25 percent in hunters.

- Utah residents and nonresidents spent $132 million for hunting, $231 million for fishing and $237 million for wildlife-watching activities in 1996. Since 1991, this in an increase of 53 percent in hunting, 50 percent in fishing and 30 percent in wildlife-watching.

- For hunting and fishing combined, retail sales exceeded $382 million, which generated $775 million in total economic output.

- Traditionally and legally, wildlife in the United States has always been a public resource. Unlike the European system, ownership of wildlife in the United States is not one of the rights associated with property ownership. Utah landowners have had few opportunities to profit from wildlife, apart from charging an access fee for wildlife-related recreation on their property.

- The future of wildlife holds questions about where this ownership trend will lead, as well as the legal liability of the public for actions of wildlife.

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Additional Information

Wildlife uses

TOTAL RESIDENTS NON-RESIDENTS

Hunting 177,000 158,000 19,000

Fishing 317,000 226,000 91,000

Wildlife watching

One Trip 415,000 245,000 170,000

Near Home 463,000 463,000 0

TOTAL RESIDENTS NON-RESIDENTS

Hunting 143,000 113,000 30,000

Fishing 406,000 265,000 141,000

Wildlife watching

One Trip 433,000 202,000 231,000

Near Home 380,000 380,000 0