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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
As most of you know, the DWR has taken a great deal of criticism over the last several months regarding it handling of the Expo Tag program and its decision to award the next five-year contract to SFW, MDF and UFNAWS. The primary concern has been and continues to be the lack of accountability and transparency for the revenues generated from those public tags. Although concerned sportsmen have been frustrated for some time, the frustration reached as climax when KUTV News ran a story on this issue on February 25, 2016: http://kutv.com/news/local/allegations-of-corruption-surround-utah-hungtin-and-conservation-expo. This story led to numerous emails and phone calls to politicians, discussions on social media and calls for reform.

Rather than acknowledging the concerns of sportsmen and looking for ways to address those concerns, the DWR has dug in its heels and become even more entrenched. In an effort to cover its own tail, the DWR released a set of 26 Frequently Asked Questions Re: Utah Expo Permits and Conservation Funding. See http://wildlife.utah.gov/utah-expo-permits-faq.html#q1. As a concerned sportsman that has been actively involved in this issue for several years, I was disappointed with the DWR's response. Rather than recognizing the legitimate concerns expressed by sportsmen and owning up to the mistakes that have been made, the DWR has prepared a self-serving, one-sided statement that does little to resolve the concerns of sportsmen. Most of the people that I have spoken with see the DWR's response for what it is - a blatant attempt to calm the waters and "CYA."

Rather than spending the next 24 hours preparing a lengthy and detailed response to the DWR's entire FAQ document, I am going to address and debunk one of the DWR's FAQ a day for the next 26 days. Please be patient and bear with me. Some of the DWR's points are accurate but many of them are confusing, misleading or only tell half of the story. The DWR's statement also unfairly portrays the RMEF in a bad light. In my opinion, the RMEF has taken the high road and stayed professional through this entire process. As I address the DWR's FAQ's, I will try to share the history, links, documents and other information. My hope is that this thread will provide an opportunity to respond to the DWR's FAQ's and educate sportsmen as to the other side of the story. These are my personal thoughts and comments, and should not be attributed to the RMEF. I will leave it to David Allen and others to speak on behalf of RMEF.

As we take this journey, feel free to chime in, offer your opinions and ask questions. I want this thread to be a place of dialogue and discussion. Additionally, please continue to call and email your friends, family members and politicians. We need to keep this story alive.

Although there are certain of the FAQ's that I am particularly anxious to address, I will start at the beginning with FAQ #1 and work through them in numerical order. So let's get started.

FAQ #1 - What is the Wildlife Expo Permit Program?
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) operates the Wildlife Expo Permit Program, which has two primary purposes:
To generate revenue to fund wildlife conservation activities in Utah.
To attract a regional or national wildlife exposition to Utah.
As part of this program, the Utah Wildlife Board authorizes up to 200 hunting permits (expo permits) per year that are allocated to hunters through a public drawing held at a wildlife exposition.

RESPONSE:


I generally agree with the DWR's response to FAQ #1. R657-55-1 specifically states that the Expo Tags we specifically created "for purposes of generating revenue to fund wildlife conservation activities in Utah and attracting and supporting a regional or national wildlife exposition in Utah." See http://www.rules.utah.gov/publicat/code/r657/r657-055.htm#T1. These statutory purposes have been the same since the Expo Tags were created in 2005. In fact, if you go back at look at the minutes from the March 31, 2005 Wildlife Board Meeting where this rule was first adopted, Greg Sheehan explained to the Board that the Expo Tags "are authorized by the Wildlife Board and issued to a qualified conservation organization for purposes of generating revenue to fund wildlife conservation activities." See 3/31/2005 Minutes at 15 - https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BwhBsR2dj01GYzBUYlVvS3RCTXM.

I believe there is no real dispute that the Expo Tags have been used to "attract a regional or national wildlife exposition to Utah." The Western Hunting and Conservation Expo is certainly a regional or national wildlife exposition. Over the last 10 years attendance has increased and the groups have had some success in attracting nonresidents. Thus, the second purpose for Expo Tags is not an issue.

The problem has been the DWR's failure to pay attention to the first and primary purpose of the Expo Tags - "generating revenue to fund wildlife conservation activities in Utah." During the first 10 years the groups raised $9,764,445 in $5 application fees, with a record $1,166,050 raised in 2010. There is no dispute that the groups have generated plenty of revenues from these tags. The question is whether those revenues were actually used to fund "wildlife conservation activities in Utah. The reality is that the groups were not required to spend one red cent of the revenues from the Expo Tags on actual conservation projects from 2007 through 2012. As a result, the $5,436,655 that the groups generated from those tags during this time period remains completely unaccounted for. After concerned sportsmen rose up in 2012, the DWR and the groups modified the rule to allow the groups to retain $3.50 of every $5 application and to earmark $1.50 for approved conservation projects. See R657-55-10. As a result, from 2013 through 2016, the groups generated $4,327,790, and 30% of that money or $1,298,337 has been earmarked for actual conservation and accounted for.

Many sportsmen, including me, are frustrated with the fact that the DWR required no accountability for the first 6 years of the Expo Tag program and only required 30% accountability since 2013. I believe that any private group that deals in public assets should be prepared to account for the monies generated from those assets. This is particularly true when the primary purpose of creating the Expo Tags was to "generate revenues for wildlife conservation activities in Utah." How can the DWR or the public be certain that the monies are being used for that purpose without requiring accountability and transparency? Even more troubling is the fact that the groups and the Wildlife Board appear to have committed to some level of accountability when these tags were created in 2005.

For instance, at the March 31, 2005 Wildlife Board Meeting, numerous sportsmen expressed concern about how the conservation groups would use the money generated from the Expo Tags. See 3/31/2005 Minutes at 21-24. In response to those concerns, Don Peay, who was representing SFW, stated the following: "it is fair to ask how much comes in with the five dollar application fees and how much went onto the ground." Unfortunately, SFW has not honored that commitment and has refused to disclose to the public what it has done with the monies generated from those tags.

In a further effort to address the concerns of sportsmen regarding the use of the monies generated from the Expo Tags, the Wildlife Board passed a motion specifically directing the DWR that "in their contract negotiations with the representing organizations that annual audits be accomplished in a similar way that is done for conservation tags." See 3/31/2005 Minutes at 24. However, neither the DWR nor the groups made any effort to ensure that an annual auditing requirement similar what exists for conservation permits was included in the 5-year contracts. Therefore, the DWR and the groups have ignored that binding directive of the Wildlife Board.

In summary, the DWR has accurately described the two purposes for the Expo Tags as set forth in R657-55-1. However, the DWR has dropped the ball and failed to ensure that the nearly $10 million generated from the Expo Tags was actually used for "wildlife conservation activities." And that is the heart of the frustration that is currently being expressed by sportsmen across the state.

Until tomorrow.

-Hawkeye-
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
FAQ #2 - Who can be awarded expo permits and what does that contract allow them to do?
The group selected to distribute expo permits must be a wildlife conservation organization. That organization is then allowed to award the expo permits at its annual convention through a public drawing. The organization does not receive the rights to use any prior expo organizer's event name, venue dates, exhibitors or scheduled events and activities.

RESPONSE:


Overall, I agree with most of the DWR's FAQ #2. However, I would like to expand on one minor point in FAQ #2.

Pursuant to R657-55-4, any "conservation organization" may apply of the Expo Tag contract. See http://www.rules.utah.gov/publicat/code/r657/r657-055.htm#T5. R657-55-1 defines "conservation organization" as "a nonprofit chartered institution, corporation, foundation, or association founded for the purpose of promoting wildlife conservation." Therefore, any nonprofit group who was founded for the purpose of wildlife conservation was qualified and had the right to apply for the Expo Tag contract.

Although we are all probably familiar with some of the established local groups here in Utah, there are hundreds of such groups across the country. This highlights one of the problems with the DWR allegedly verbally announcing the decision to move to a formal RFP process at a private meeting in October 2014 with a few of the local conservation groups. If the DWR wanted to change the application process, then the DWR should have incorporated that significant change into the proposed rule amendments that it presented to the RACs in December 2014 and the Wildlife Board in January 2015. Had it done so, and the Wildlife Board had adopted those changes, then the DWR would have published to all qualified conservation groups that it was going to use a formal RFP process.

The DWR should not have been choosing which groups it thought may be interested in the Expo Tag contract. Rather, it should have made any necessary changes through the formal rule making process so that all qualified groups were treated fairly and had an equal opportunity to apply. That, of course, assumes that the DWR wanted to invite competition from other conservation groups.

Overall, I have no major issues with FAQ #2.

-Hawkeye-
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
FAQ #3 - Q3: What are the possible economic benefits of a wildlife expo?
The largest wildlife expo currently held in Utah is the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo, which has been an annual event in downtown Salt Lake City since 2007. This particular expo delivers a multimillion-dollar economic benefit to the State of Utah and its businesses. The 2016 Western Hunting & Conservation Expo had more than 40,000 attendees from all 50 states, 12 countries and five continents.

RESPONSE:


I am not going to argue with the numbers posted in the DWR's FAQ #3. The groups and the state of Utah have been touting the economic benefit of the Expo since it started in 2007. I will admit that SFW and MDF put on a good show, which attracts sportsmen and results in business for local restaurants and hotels. However, I maintain that other groups could do just as well, or perhaps even better, if they were given 200 premium hunting tags to make available at their event. Those 200 tags are a huge draw.

As you will recall, that was one of the two purposes for creating the Exp Tags. See FAQ #1 above ("supporting a regional or national wildlife exposition in Utah."). As a result, an important number to consider is how many nonresidents attend the Expo each year. This number is important because most of the residents who attend the Expo can drive to the Expo, apply for the tags, attend if they choose and drive home in the same day. In contrast, nonresidents who attend the Expo typically book hotel rooms, eat at restaurants, and generate other types of tourism dollars for the states. According to the latest "2015 Audit" performed by the DWR, a total of 14,910 applicants applied for the Expo Tags, of which 16% of those were nonresidents. See http://wildlife.utah.gov/public_meetings/board/2015-08_board_packet.pdf at 137/187. Based upon those numbers, the Expo likely attracted roughly 2,300 to 2,400 nonresidents who came to Utah and applied for those tags. Perhaps someone affiliated with the groups can provide more detailed numbers.

What types of numbers would RMEF have generated if the state of Utah would have awarded the five-year Expo Tag contract to them? To be honest, I do not know the exact answer to that question because RMEF was not provided the opportunity. But I do know it would have been a massive, world-class event. RMEF committed to bring its National Convention to Utah for the full life of the contract and make the 200 Expo Tags available at that event. RMEF recently experienced record attendance at their Hunter & Outdoor Christmas Exposition in Las Vegas with nearly 87,000 people attending. See http://www.rmef.org/NewsandMedia/PressRoom/NewsReleases/RecordAttendanceatRMEFsHOC.aspx. I also know that the RMEF National Convention would also likely attract a larger number of nonresidents. Just consider the fact that RMEF has nearly 220,000 members across the United States and around world. See http://www.rmef.org/NewsandMedia/PressRoom/NewsReleases/RMEFRecordsAllTimeMembershipHigh.aspx. RMEF would have tapped into that massive membership to attract nonresidents to its National Convention in SLC. I do not how many members SFW and MDF have but I know it is significantly less. Perhaps somebody can post those numbers when they have a chance. RMEF also committed to a significant multi-platform marketing strategy to publicize the Expo and the 200 tags. See RMEF Proposal dated 11/24/2015 -- https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BwhBsR2dj01GZXpSQ3R3MS1MTnM.

My point is sharing these numbers is to highlight the fact that although SFW and MDF have put on a good show for the last 10 years, RMEF could have done the same thing and likely would have grown the event due their increased size and reach. Additionally, all of us should recognize that the 200 premium tags provided to the host of the Expo are a massive draw to help bring people to the show. Finally, while we may not know exactly how massive the RMEF National Convention would have been in SLC, Utah coupled with the 200 Expo Tags, we do know one thing for certain - 100% of all application fees would have been used for actual conservation projects. The DWR cannot argue with that fact.

-Hawkeye-
 

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First and foremost, thank you to Hawkeye for taking the time to draft and post these responses. They are "compelling and rich." Second, I want to expound somewhat on FAQ #3.

In its answer to FAQ #3, the DWR claims that the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo (the "Expo") (1) drew 40,000 attendees and (2) "delivers a multimillion-dollar economic benefit to the State of Utah and its businesses." This is an interesting and confusing claim. Although millions of dollars flow through the Expo via the auction and the raffle, does attendance at the Expo create a "multimillion-dollar economic benefit" in Utah? Certainly, the 40,000 Expo attendees collectively spent millions in Expo related activities, e.g. travel, lodging, food, etc. Nevertheless, is the millions spent by all Expo attendees commensurate with the "multimillion-dollar economic benefit to the State of Utah" claimed by the DWR?

Although Expo attendees generate significant economic activity, I believe that most of this activity is not a net benefit of the State of Utah. Instead, I believe that most of the economic activity created by the Expo attendees is simply shifting money from various parts of Utah to other parts of Utah, e.g. Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County. Furthermore, in terms of overall net economic benefit to the state, it is the number of non-residents Expo attendees, not the overall number of attendees, that matters most.

The DWR's claim about the economic impact of the Expo is a claim commonly made by sports franchise owners whenever they are seeking public funds to build a new facility. In the case of a sports franchise, the owner will claim that the state, county, or city should help pay for the proposed facility because the new facility will create millions of dollars of economic activity for the state, county, or city. The problem with this claim is that study after study has shown that it is not true. Instead of creating new economic activity, the new sports facility simply shifts economic activity from one area of the state, county, or city to another area of the state, county, or city. Therefore, the net increase in economic activity created by the sports facility is typically insignificant or nonexistent.

The reasons why a new sports facility does not generate new economic activity, but instead simply shifts economic activity, are two-fold. First, sports facilities serve a limited geographic area. Although some non-residents may attend games at the facility, the vast majority of the attendees are residents of the geographic area surrounding the facility. Two, in general, people have limited discretionary income. Because people have a limited discretionary income they must choose how that income will be spent, i.e. they must choose "Option A" or "Option B," but cannot choose Option A and Option B. Even those with a high amount of discretionary income must choose between various options based on (1) money and (2) time/availability. Consequently, when a new sports facility is built it does not bring new money to the area. Instead, it simply shifts economic activity from the previous facility or other businesses in the area, i.e. restaurants, theaters, shops, etc., or both, to the new sports facility.

The same phenomenon occurs with the Expo. As hawkeye pointed out, in 2015 only 16% of the raffle tag applicants were non-residents. Furthermore, it is likely that non-residents account for a much smaller percentage of Expo attendees (I would guess less than 10%), which means the vast majority of Expo attendees are residents of Utah. Consequently, the majority of money spent on Expo related activities does not add to Utah's economy. Instead, the Expo shifts millions of dollars from various businesses throughout Utah to businesses in Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County.

To illustrate my point, let us compare the annual "Expo" to the semi-annual "Outdoor Retailer" show. As stated previously, the DWR claims that the Expo drew 40,000 attendees in 2016. This is similar to the attendance figures for Outdoor Retailer. http://www.sltrib.com/home/2789841-155/as-record-breaking-outdoor-retailer-show-opens. It is estimated that the combined attendance of the summer and winter Outdoor Retailer shows is approximately 45,000. Id. Although the attendance figures for the Expo and Outdoor Retailer are similar, the financial impacts of the expositions are vastly different. The Expo brings an estimated $10 million to the "local economy," while Outdoor Retailer brings $45 million to the state. https://muledeer.org/western-hunting-conservation-expo-breaks-attendance-and-fundraising-records-2/ and http://kutv.com/news/local/22k-expected-at-outdoor-retail-expo-in-salt-lake-city.

The disparate economic impacts of the Expo and Outdoor Retailer is simple to explain. While the Expo draws 40,000 attendees who mostly live in Utah, Outdoor Retailer pulls 45,000 attendees who primarily live out-of-state (Outdoor Retailer is closed to the public and is exclusively for retailers of outdoor equipment). Therefore, while the average Expo attendee spends $100 or less for food, fuel, and tickets to the expo, the average Outdoor Retailer attendee is spending $1000 or more for hotel, food and beverage, entertainment, rental car, etc. In addition, the $100 spent by the Expo attendee would have been spent elsewhere in Utah if it was not spent at the Expo, whereas the $1000 or more spent in Utah by the Outdoor Retailer attendee would not have been spent in Utah except for the Outdoor Retailer show.

Hawkeye asked an interesting question, "What types of numbers would RMEF have generated if the state of Utah would have awarded the five-year Expo Tag contract to them?" Although we will never be able to answer this question accurately, I think we can answer two related questions: (1) Would RMEF affect the number of Utahns attending the Expo and (2) Would RMEF affect the number of non-residents attending the Expo? (I understand that if RMEF were hosting the event it would be the RMEF national convention and not the Expo, but I am using the term "Expo" for simplicity.)

Would RMEF affect the number of Utahns attending the Expo? Probably? What the effect would be is impossible to know, but certainly if RMEF were hosting the Expo there would be some change in the number of Utahns attending the Expo. Yet, again, in terms of economic benefit to Utah, I believe any change would have little, if any, net economic benefit for Utah.

Would RMEF affect the number of non-residents attending the Expo? Almost certainly. As Hawkeye stated, RMEF boasts a membership of nearly 220,000. http://www.rmef.org/NewsandMedia/PressRoom/NewsReleases/RMEFRecordsAllTimeMembershipHigh.aspx. Furthermore, I believe this figure is ten times higher than the combined membership of the current Expo sponsors (This conclusion may be incorrect because I could not confirm the Mule Deer Foundation's membership figures). http://sfw.net/about/. Given RMEF's vast membership, if RMEF hosted the Expo it is almost certain that additional non-residents would attend the Expo. Moreover, even if the increased number of non-residents was small, e.g. two percent (2%) of RMEF total membership (excluding members in Utah) or 4280 additional non-resident attendees, the net economic benefit to Utah would be over $4,000,000 (assumming each attendee spends $1000 during the Expo). Even less than 1% of RMEF members attending the Expo would geneate more than $2,000,000 for Utah's economy.

In conclusion, I think the DWR is overstating the value of most Expo attendees to Utah's economy. Furthermore, the economic value the Expo provides to Utah can only be increased significantly by increasing the number of non-residents who attend the expo.
 

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RMEF had almost 87,000 attendees at their national convention in December in Las Vegas. That is more than double what the hunt expo brought in this year in their "record" attendance.

Does anyone think that RMEF would bring in significantly less people if the location shifted from Vegas to SLC, with no other change? I argue that it would not. Throw the lure of 200 raffled tags into the mix, and is there any legitimate claim they wouldn't push 100k?

And I'd suggest a much higher number of out of state attendees as well.
 

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Vanilla, yes, and not only is it a much larger crowd, it is a more diverse and vested crowd as well. If you talk to the retailers and manufacturers that attend these things, they can tell you which ones make them money, draw in customers(with money) and which ones don't. Given a choice, retailers and manufactures would choose RMEF over SFW any day of the week. It is this clientele that brings an economic impact to the local economy.

People beg to get into RMEF and WSF shows, and wait for years to get a spot. The Expo has to actively court the big names to get them here. I'm in the industry, while I'm not "big", I talk with many of those that are. There is no comparison.

At the RMEF convention smaller retailers and manufactures show up and hold meetings, demonstrations, and gatherings at nearby hotels and other venues for their clientele, because they will never make it on the floor. They have people coming from all over the world, not just other states. You see this at Shot Show and the Outdoor Retailer show as well. You do NOT see this with the Expo

I have people from 20 US States, China, Japan, and Europe visit me when the Outdoor retailer show is in town. I've never even had a phone call from someone that was here for the Expo. And we get inquiries from all over the world wanting to know whether we will be at the RMEF convention, Outdoor Retailer, Shot Show, WSF convention, etc. because they want to come see us. NEVER had an inquiry about if we were going to be at or near the Expo for the same reasons.

That almost 1 mil in Canadian hunts, how many of those does RMEF have to hand out to get big names at their shows??????
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
FAQ #4 - Q4: Which conservation groups have held the expo permit contract?
Since the Wildlife Expo Permit Program began in 2007, three separate expo permit contracts have been awarded. The first contract went to the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep in 2007, and the second one went to the Mule Deer Foundation (MDF) in 2011. The most recent expo permit contract - which will run from 2017-2021 - was awarded to Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife (SFW) in December 2015. SFW will partner with MDF and the Utah Foundation for North American Wild Sheep (UFNAWS) during this contract period.

RESPONSE:


The statements in FAQ #4 are generally accurate but they make it appear as if the DWR has been awarding the five year Expo Tag contracts to different conservation groups. But the reality is that SFW and MDF have controlled those contracts and the Expos since the Expo Tags were created.

The first Expo Tag contract (2007-2011) was technically awarded to the FNAWS, who partnered with SFW and MDF to host the early Expos. After three years, however, FNAWS elected to no longer be a part of the Expo and withdrew from the contract. By the way, does anybody know why FNAWS pulled out? Pursuant to the rule, that initial contract was then transferred to SFW and MDF, who were partners with FNAWS. See R657-55-11 ("If the conservation organization awarded the wildlife expo permit series withdraws before the end of the 5 year period or any extension period under R657-55-4(1)(b), any remaining co-participant with the conservation organization may be given an opportunity to assume the contract and to distribute the expo permit series consistent with the contract and this rule for the remaining years in the applicable period.") See http://www.rules.utah.gov/publicat/code/r657/r657-055.htm#T4. Therefore, SFW and MDF were involved in the Expo for the full 5 years of the initial contract (2007-2011).

The second Expo Tag contract (2012-2016) was technically awarded to MDF. See 2010 Contract Between the DWR and MDF -- https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwhBsR2dj01GUWx3dkgxM0dBTzQ/view?usp=sharing. It is significant to note that the DWR utilized the process outlined in R657-55-4 to award the first two Expo Tag contracts. At that point in time, it did not believe that some other state statute required it to utilize the formal RFP process. Although the DWR generally contracts with a single entity, the application submitted by MDF (Exhibit 2 to the Contract) makes it clear that MDF was going to partner with SFW to host the Expos during the five-year term. Moreover, if you review the application submitted by MDF and SFW for the contract (Exhibit 2 to the Contract), you will also notice that the parties submitted a simple 3-page application which contained very little information. SFW and MDF hosted the Expo for the full 5 years under this second contract (2012-2016).

The third Expo Tag contract (2017-2021) was just recently awarded to SFW. See 2016 Contract Between the DWR and SFW -- http://wildlife.utah.gov/pdf/expo_permit_contract.pdf. In addition to MDF, SFW also listed UFNAWS as a partner for the Expo. Does anybody know what the relationship is between UFNAWS and SFW? If you look at SFW's proposal for the most recent contract, you will notice that they included the same address for both SFW and UFNAWS. See RFP Proposal at 23-24 - http://sfw.net/data/SFW-200-Expo-Tags-RFP-web.pdf. It is also important to note that the DWR, at the request of the groups, recently amended the Expo Tag rule allow an additional five-year extension of this contract. See R657-55-4(1)(b). Therefore, SFW and MDF will likely be involved in the Expo for the next ten years (2017-2026).

In summary, while the DWR's response to FAQ #4 is technically correct, it gives the false illusion that the five-year Expo Tag contracts have been awarded to conservation groups, and groups other than SFW and MDF have been awarded the Expo Tags. This simply is not true. The reality is that SFW and MDF have been involved with every Expo since 2007 and now have the right to continue to do so for likely the next decade. While it is true that FNAWS was involved from 2007 to 2009 and now will be partnering with SFW and MDF under the new contract, this does not change the fact that these two groups have controlled the contract and the Expo Tags since the beginning.

-Hawkeye-
 

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Don Peay was one of the founders of UFNAWS and they've always worked closely with SFW. To me it's the same organization even though they are technically different groups.

I doubt anybody really asked who has hosted the expo in the past, they just put that in there to make them seem less biased. Not buying it.
 

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Don Peay was one of the founders of UFNAWS and they've always worked closely with SFW. To me it's the same organization even though they are technically different groups.

I doubt anybody really asked who has hosted the expo in the past, they just put that in there to make them seem less biased. Not buying it.
Yep, just like the money as well, from one pocket into the other. Look into those hunts, and then chase the disclosures for conflict. It is very thinly veiled.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
FAQ #5 - Q5: Where does the money from the application fees go?
Hunters are charged a $5.00 per-permit application fee when they apply in the expo permit drawing. The DWR must approve in advance how 30 percent of these funds are spent. Expo organizers must spend the remaining 70 percent on policies, programs, projects and personnel that support conservation initiatives in Utah. All of the application fee revenue benefits wildlife conservation in Utah.

RESPONSE:


The question raised in the DWR's FAQ #5 is exactly what sportsmen have been asking for nearly 10 years. Unfortunately, the answer provided by the DWR is confusing and misleading.

First, the DWR is correct that "hunters are charged a $5.00 per-permit application fee when they apply in the expo permit drawing." As explained above, from 2007 through 2016, the groups $9,764,445 in $5 application fees, with $1,166,050 raised in 2016. There is no dispute that the groups have generated plenty of revenues from these tags. The question is whether those revenues were actually used to fund "wildlife conservation activities in Utah" as was originally pitched to sportsmen. See R67-55-1 - See http://www.rules.utah.gov/publicat/code/r657/r657-055.htm#T1. The DWR did not require the groups to spend one red cent of the revenues from the Expo Tags on actual conservation projects from 2007 through 2012. As a result, the $5,436,655 that the groups generated from those tags during this time period remains completely unaccounted for. After concerned sportsmen rose up in 2012, the DWR and the groups modified the rule to allow the groups to retain $3.50 of every $5 application and to earmark $1.50 for approved conservation projects. See R657-55-10. As a result, from 2013 through 2016, the groups generated $4,327,790, and 30% of that money or $1,298,337 has been earmarked for actual conservation and accounted for.

Second, the DWR states that "the DWR must approve in advance how 30 percent of these funds are spent." R657-55-10(3) states that this 30% must be spent on actual conservation projects and that "project funding will not be committed to or expended on any project without first obtaining the division director's written approval." Under the contract recently signed by the DWR and SFW, the conservation groups must also prepare detailed annual reports accounting for these monies. See 2016 Contract, Section 7.e.4 - http://wildlife.utah.gov/pdf/expo_permit_contract.pdf. This is the level of accountability and transparency that should be required of private groups generating revenues off of our public tags. However, it begs the question why is this transparency limited to only 30% of the Expo Tag revenues? Why doesn't the DWR require the same love of accountability and transparency for the remaining 70% of the revenues?

Third the DWR states that "Expo organizers must spend the remaining 70 percent on policies, programs, projects and personnel that support conservation initiatives in Utah." This statement is referring to specific contract language that was recently added to the latest contract between the DWR and SFW in response to pressure from sportsmen and the media. Pursuant to Section 7.c of the contract, SFW and its partners retain $3.50 from every $5 application and that money must be used for "policies, programs, projects and personnel that support wildlife conservation initiatives in Utah." The highlighted language referencing "wildlife conservation initiatives" is new language that was not included in prior contracts between the DWR and the groups. But what does that language actually mean? Can the SFW/MDF pay salaries to SFW/MDF "personnel" with that 70%? Can they lobby with that 70% in an effort to affect "policies"? Did the parties simply draft a provision that authorizes them to do what they were already doing? Can anybody tell me what a "wildlife conservation initiative" is? Why didn't the parties define that term in the contract? As a lawyer, I always define critical contract terms unless I am purposefully trying to leave the term ambiguous so that my client can take advantage of the ambiguous language. I am guessing that is what happened here. I have asked for some clarification from some of my contacts but I have not heard back yet. Do any of you know what that term means? On the surface, this statement sounds great but it has no real meaning. In theory, the groups could spend the 70% of the Expo tag revenues on nearly anything and argue that it somehow supports "wildlife conservation initiatives in Utah." I am guessing that this language was added to the contract as window dressing so the groups and the DWR can point to it and say that 100% of the revenues are spent on wildlife conservation. Hopefully, folks dig a little deeper into the issue.

Finally, the DWR states that "all of the application fee revenue benefits wildlife conservation in Utah." This statement seems like a real stretch. Given the extremely broad and ambiguous language that governs the spending of 70% of the Expo Tag revenues, how can the DWR make this statement? I think that we should all email the DWR and ask them: (1) please define for us what constitutes a "wildlife conservation initiative" under Section 7.c of the contract; and (2) why didn't the DWR actually define that term in the contract so that it was clear to the parties and the public. Now some people might say perhaps the DWR wanted to provide the groups some flexibility during the year with how to spend the 70% but they intend to audit those expenditures at the end of the year? Wrong. A simple reading of the contract reveals that there is no audit provision in the agreement. Pursuant to 7.e, SFW and its partners must submit a report to the Wildlife Board and the DWR by September 1st detailing among other things a description of each project funded with Expo Tag revenues. However, the annual reporting requirement in Section 7.e only applies to projects funded with the 30% of the Expo Tag revenues (which expenditures already require DWR approval). There is no audit or reporting requirement in the contract or the rule that applies to the 70% retained by the groups.

In summary, given the lack of accountability and transparency and the lack of any clear requirements as to how the groups can spend 70% of the Expo Tag revenues, it is unclear to me how the DWR can make a definitive statement that "all of the application fee revenue benefits wildlife conservation in Utah." Even if you think the new requirement that the groups spend that money on "wildlife conservation initiatives," which is completely undefined, somehow solves the problem, the DWR's blanket statement is still misleading in that ignores the fact over the last 10 years, millions of dollars have gone unaccounted for. Thus, the statement that "all of the application fee revenue benefits wildlife conservation in Utah," fails to recognize the lackluster history of accountability and transparency with respect to the Expo Tag revenues and the loosey-goosey "fix" that has recently been put in place.

What do you guys think about the new contract language?

-Hawkeye-
 

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But what does that language actually mean? Can the SFW/MDF pay salaries to SFW/MDF "personnel" with that 70%? Can they lobby with that 70% in an effort to affect "policies"? Did the parties simply draft a provision that authorizes them to do what they were already doing? Can anybody tell me what a "wildlife conservation initiative" is?

What do you guys think about the new contract language?

-Hawkeye-
As I read it, a "wildlife conservation initiative" is lobbying the legislature against stream access. It is writing a couple letters to national Senators about the problem Du Jour, like Mexican wolves, sage grouse, PETA, or other "grave" threats, and pocketing a healthy commission. Maybe if we are lucky, the upland game hunters will get an extra stocked pheasant or two.

I think you are nailing it in your analysis of the language and keep up the good work. Thank you for preparing this thread.
 

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Given the fact that the fox is guarding the hen house, it does not matter what the language says, at least under the current captain and crew. But it is very important that we understand why this situation is the way it is.

This is a closed loop system, with faulty internal feedback under the guise of independent oversight, from the governors office, to the group that approves the expo contract, to the SDFWR/wildlife board, and back.

This plays out through every facet of DWR operations. And because of the faulty internal feedback loop, they reflexively double down on every bad decision. The results of which are always more money, more money, more money, less wildlife, less tags, less hunters, less wildlife, less tags, less hunters. If this were a legitimate profitable private entity, with proper feedback channels, and independent audits, this cycle would extinguish itself, because there would be NO ROI. But instead, the faulty feedback, like the over proliferation of cancer cells, continues to grow out of control, killing the very being that it is living off of.

Beyond accountability and transparency which are sorely lacking, we need massive ROI analysis. When you spend this kind of money, there is an expectation that something is being accomplished, that you are going somewhere and making progress. In any other venture, if the expense of maintaining homeostasis or the status quo continued to climb exponentially, normal feedback would dictate a cessation of such waste, and a move toward sustainability and forward progress. But again, we have a broken feedback system here that feeds back onto itself. So we spend more and more, while we get less and less in return.

If the DWR's job is to manage wildlife, and SFW's stated goal is to further wildlife and hunters, and all the while these two have worked together to exponentially increase the funding stream for these goals over the last 20 years, then why has the ROI been negative across this time frame?

It is the 'Conservation Expo" yet the term conservation is vague and haphazardly tossed about, with no regard to any expectations of goals, requirements, and return, relating to said "conservation". It is entirely discretionary, and is another negative stream feeding back on to itself, driving the current deficit in wildlife and hunters, while continuing to over leverage what limited resources are left, with a trajectory set for depletion, and the zeal of a vulture capitalist poised to smash and grab.

There is no language to support a future of growth, or sustainability, but rather a model and plan to continue to embezzle all the way to bankruptcy, with golden parachutes deployed. This ship was pirated a long time ago, and it's treasure long ago plundered. There is diminishing capacity to further privateer anymore, without complete abandonment, and pirating of a new vessel, which is why these pirates are hunkered the way they are on OUR ship. It is through the internal Parlay of pirates attempting to avoid mutiny, and inevitable cannibalism, that we get contracts like this, that force hunters to walk the plank of their own ship.

Which is why it is very important that hunters understand these privateering articles. So a big thanks to Hawkeye for walking us through this.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks lonetree. Only 21 more posts/FAQ's to go. I hope that you guys will free to chime in with comments and questions as we move forward. My goal is to use this thread to help educate folks at to what is going on and what the DWR is saying to justify the past.

Hawkeye
 

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Finally, the DWR states that ?all of the application fee revenue benefits wildlife conservation in Utah.?

In summary, given the lack of accountability and transparency and the lack of any clear requirements as to how the groups can spend 70% of the Expo Tag revenues, it is unclear to me how the DWR can make a definitive statement that ?all of the application fee revenue benefits wildlife conservation in Utah.? Even if you think the new requirement that the groups spend that money on ?wildlife conservation initiatives,? which is completely undefined, somehow solves the problem, the DWR?s blanket statement is still misleading in that ignores the fact over the last 10 years, millions of dollars have gone unaccounted for. Thus, the statement that ?all of the application fee revenue benefits wildlife conservation in Utah,? fails to recognize the lackluster history of accountability and transparency with respect to the Expo Tag revenues and the loosey-goosey ?fix? that has recently been put in place.

What do you guys think about the new contract language?

-Hawkeye-
Hawkeye-
Don't know where you find the time to do this, but I for one appreciate it and hope to be able to use this information in my dealing with others.

I've got to admit - I had to chuckle when I read that "all the application fee revenue benefits wildlife conservation in Utah". First off, definitives such as "all" should never be used period. As a consultant, we could get skewered in our reporting by using such terms. What is DWR thinking here.

Secondly, how do they know that "all" application fee revenues? There is no accounting for the 70% of the fees that SFW and MDF retain! When I ask officials how they know where those 70% of tags fees go, all I get is...crickets. My guess is that DWR and SFW/MDF think that if they stonewall and delay long enough, this will all go away. I hope that we don't allow this to happen as a hunting community until real answers and accounting are provided.

It was posted by Muscle Whitefish in a separate thread that SFW spent upwards of ~900K on 11 hunts to Canada in 2013. How that directly benefits wildlife here in Utah, I have a hard time seeing. How do we know that expo fees weren't used for those hunts????

Exasperating!!
 

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Hawkeye-
Don't know where you find the time to do this, but I for one appreciate it and hope to be able to use this information in my dealing with others.

I've got to admit - I had to chuckle when I read that "all the application fee revenue benefits wildlife conservation in Utah". First off, definitives such as "all" should never be used period. As a consultant, we could get skewered in our reporting by using such terms. What is DWR thinking here.

Secondly, how do they know that "all" application fee revenues? There is no accounting for the 70% of the fees that SFW and MDF retain! When I ask officials how they know where those 70% of tags fees go, all I get is...crickets. My guess is that DWR and SFW/MDF think that if they stonewall and delay long enough, this will all go away. I hope that we don't allow this to happen as a hunting community until real answers and accounting are provided.

It was posted by Muscle Whitefish in a separate thread that SFW spent upwards of ~900K on 11 hunts to Canada in 2013. How that directly benefits wildlife here in Utah, I have a hard time seeing. How do we know that expo fees weren't used for those hunts????

Exasperating!!
Through this whole scenario, dating back to the August 16, 2012 Wildlife Board meeting where UWC first proposed they put 90% back into wildlife, the DWR and the Expo Partners have had a difficult time explaining where the $5 application fees were going. At first, they insisted that it cost them as much or more to conduct the draw than it did for the Fallon NV company to do it. (That's where the $3.50 figure came from.) Then it was that most of it was needed for the "administration" and "coordination" expenses of the Expo itself. Then it was needed to help keep the organizations solvent. And now we're told it's used for "initiatives" that benefit wildlife conservation. Have the purposes changed or just the excuses?
 

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Through this whole scenario, dating back to the August 16, 2012 Wildlife Board meeting where UWC first proposed they put 90% back into wildlife, the DWR and the Expo Partners have had a difficult time explaining where the $5 application fees were going. At first, they insisted that it cost them as much or more to conduct the draw than it did for the Fallon NV company to do it. (That's where the $3.50 figure came from.) Then it was that most of it was needed for the "administration" and "coordination" expenses of the Expo itself. Then it was needed to help keep the organizations solvent. And now we're told it's used for "initiatives" that benefit wildlife conservation. Have the purposes changed or just the excuses?
Does anyone know who conducts the draw for sfw.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
FAQ #6 - Q6: Where does the money from the permit fees go?
When an applicant is selected to receive an expo permit, he or she must pay the regular permit fee that all other hunters in Utah must pay. Expo organizers have never received any of the permit fees charged for the 200 expo permits. One-hundred percent of those funds have always gone directly to the DWR.
RESPONSE:


I have no issues with the DWR's FAQ #6. If you apply for the Expo Tags and your name is drawn in the Expo Tag drawing, you still have to purchase the actual permit from the DWR. For instance, when I drew a LE deer tag at the Expo in 2008, I received written notification in the mail but I then had to go the DWR and purchase the actual permit, which today costs $168 for a resident. Successful applicants must pay the regular permit fee and those fees go to the DWR.

FAQ #6 is pretty straight forward but there are more interesting topics on the horizon. 20 more to go!

-Hawkeye-
 

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Don Peay was one of the founders of UFNAWS and they've always worked closely with SFW. To me it's the same organization even though they are technically different groups.

I doubt anybody really asked who has hosted the expo in the past, they just put that in there to make them seem less biased. Not buying it.
Actually, they are legally one group and have been from the beginning! And beginning with the first text, that fact is proudly used throughout their proposal as a prime reason for their entitlement to the contract. Western Hunting and Conservation Expo Partners is the company that actually signs the contract with only the contact person's name and signature changing. This time it is Jon Larson and last time it must have been Miles Morretti. In fact, one of the reasons they also diss the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation throughout the proposal is because they pulled out of the WHCE Partners early on. They pride themselves as one entity when it suits their agenda, but separate themselves when it doesn't.
 
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