CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The shoe has dropped. West Virginia wildlife officials now know how the recent federal budget sequestration is going to affect them - and you.
It's not pretty if you're a trout fisherman.
Division of Natural Resources administrators said the upcoming 5.1 percent cut in federal Sport Fish Restoration funding will give the DNR $186,000 less each year to spend on fish management. Curtis Taylor, the agency's wildlife chief, said the state's trout-stocking program will probably take the worst hit.
"It won't affect [stockings] this year, but in the future we're talking about stocking fewer trout, smaller trout, and cutting streams that currently receive weekly stockings to one stocking every two weeks."
The trout program is so vulnerable because nearly three-fourths of its $2.6 million annual budget comes from federal Sport Fish Restoration money. Sportsmen who buy fishing tackle pay an 11 percent federal excise tax, which in turn gets returned to state fish agencies based on the amount of fishable water and the number of fishing license buyers in each state.
West Virginia's small population and lack of water make it a "minimum state," one that receives the minimum cut of Sport Fish funding. DNR officials spend $1.8 million of that annual allocation on the trout program.
Why so much? Trout stocking is expensive.
"During our last fiscal year, we spent $478,000 on trout food and $211,000 on vehicle expenses," Taylor said.
Personnel costs usually eat up most of any agency's budget, but Taylor said the trout program is a notable exception.