When you and I purchase our resident combination Arizona hunting and fishing licenses that cost $57, do you have any idea what services you are entitled to?
This is a question that is starting to come up after the Arizona Game & Fish Department initiated a number of new programs.
State law says that a license is required for anyone for taking wildlife - including fish - in Arizona. That license also allows you to apply for big game tags.
But are there any other perks - you know goods and/or services - that these licenses entitle you to?
Apparently not, according to AZGFD.
The department currently has three programs; one that is free, and two that dig a little deeper into the sportsman/conservationist's pocket.
The first is called the Arizona Game & Fish Department's Customer Portal.
According to the AZGFD, "The Arizona Game & Fish Portal is an interface created to help the customer with all of their self-service needs pertaining to the outdoors."
Here is how you create an account. After you go to the section called creating a portal account on the department's website, you create an individual account by answering a few personal information questions including your name and email address, and then you establish a password.
So once you've done that, what does that get for you? According to the department, it gets you "easier access to your Arizona Game & Fish information such as, your licenses, information on draw tags and account information."
One benefit for being a portal member is that according to the department, "hunters who have AZGFD customer portal accounts were able to view draw results early."
Ah, there's the issue I have.
The department says I have to establish a portal account IF I want to see my draw results early.
My question is why? I purchase a hunting/fishing license like everyone else. Does that entitle me to the same benefit as a sportsman/conservationist who is required to have a portal account?
No, not according to the AZGFD.
If I decide NOT to get a portal account, then I am denied that basic service plus a few others.
There is another fee-based program that the Department has instituted that is called "I Support Wildlife."
The department says, "this program is a community of people committed to preserving our state's natural heritage. Purchase of a one-year I Support Wildlife membership helps us bridge the widening gap between wildlife facing new threats and a sharp increase in the cost of conservation. I Support Wildlife is a membership program that allows people to contribute to conservation of wildlife."
Hmm. I always thought I was a conservationist and that I support wildlife in Arizona in many ways, including purchasing licenses. Other ways I support wildlife is by participating in wildlife projects, including wildlife captures and transplant operations, and being involved in community-based outreach programs such as Fishing For Smiles.
And I would think being a chief instructor for the department's Hunter Education program for over 20 years years should count, too.
It costs $25 to join this new program. And you must be a Customer Portal account member and logged into your account in order to do so.
And here is what you get for your $25, according to the department. "Access to a new 'premium' version of the Recreational Access Arizona (RAA) mapping application to enhance your exploration of Arizona's outdoors. Plus a one-year subscription to Arizona Wildlife Views magazine, up-to-date fish stocking reports, and an 'I Support Wildlife' window decal."
Last, but not least, is another fee-based program called "PointGuard."
The department noted, that "this (PointGuard) essentially will provide hunters with peace of mind in knowing that they can surrender their hunt permit-tag for any reason without losing their coveted bonus points."
Here are the requirements to participate in this program.
1) PointGuard is only available to those who apply online.
2) All applicants must sign up for a free AZGFD Portal account to purchase PointGuard.
3) PointGuard is $5 per species, per applicant, purchased at the time of completing the online application, or prior to the application deadline. The fee is non-refundable.
4) Only one hunt permit-tag may be surrendered, per species.
There are some more conditions such as the tag fee is non-refundable, you can wait until the day before the hunt starts to turn in a tag, that those who use this program will get their bonus points restored, and they will get a bonus point added as if they had not been successful in the draw.
To be fair on the subject, I reached out to Scott Poppenberger, the Region 3 Supervisor, and everyone in the AZGFD, to give them the opportunity to explain why the department needs these programs to help them survive in today's world.
I don't question that the AZGFD believes they are working to benefit sportsmen and the needs of Arizona's wildlife.
I get that, and I think they do a great job overall.
But I don't think they have done a good job in explaining why they need all this.
As a constituent, I simply want an explanation as to why everything seems to be based on being a portal customer, and what are the funds generated from these programs going to be specifically used for?
Is that too much to ask?