A case study of how
cuts impact one agency
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SEPT. 28, 2003 - - It doesn't take a rocket scientist
to figure there's probably some connection between the increase
in South Carolina's boating deaths and the decrease in the state's
number of wildlife officers.
to wildlife officers and their presence on the water causes people
to be a lot more careful, aware and cautious," said John Frampton,
head of the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Last year, there were 14 boating deaths in South Carolina. Since
last year, DNR has 78 fewer wildlife officers because of state budget
cuts. Guess how many boating deaths there have been so far this
The statistics don't get better. Three of the state's counties
- - Anderson, Sumter and Dillon - - have only one wildlife officer.
Ten mostly Upstate counties only have two wildlife officers. All
totaled, 13 counties with a total land area of 7,248 square miles
are served by only 23 wildlife officers. The whole state now has
only 212 officers to keep tabs on the 371,000 boats in South Carolina.
Over the last three years, DNR has suffered a 35 percent cut in
its state-appropriated dollars. It now gets about $20 million annually
from the state, down from $31 million just over 1,100 days ago.
Frampton said his agency continues to function and provide essential
services, but many extras are gone.
"We've probably cut everywhere we can cut," he said.
"We've made some major changes by consolidating nine law enforcement
districts into four. We've closed 12 offices and have got five more
But he says if state agencies like his are forced to make another
mid-year cut (there have been seven over the last three years),
some things likely will have to go completely.
"You're getting to the point where you're going to have to
cut programs, and that's counterproductive. Basically, what we're
doing now is providing essential services and which of those do
you cut down on?"
Targets could be the department's many education programs that
help schoolchildren, particularly those in urban settings, learn
about the outdoors. One program, for example, currently generates
2,000 requests for the department to expose students to animals
like snakes, alligators and birds.
If wildlife education programs are cut, the director said, students
won't have the opportunity to learn to appreciate the state's historic
connection to the outdoors. Part of the state's traditions could
be lost if they don't learn the value of a vibrant outdoors for
the state, he added.
Other targets for cuts could be the myriad of other functions the
department does - - climatology, protecting river corridors from
development, mapping the state's geology, monitoring aquifers, improving
water quality, conducting innovative research on shrimp, crab and
fish. The list goes on. The department does a lot more than just
deal with hunters and anglers.
More than anything, the Department of Natural Resources is tasked
to ensure the state's natural resources remain in good shape so
they can be enjoyed by residents and used by the state as a calling
card to attract good growth.
Bottom line: If budget cuts cause DNR to lose its abilities to
monitor, assess, research and educate people about the state's natural
resources, every taxpayer's quality of life will be impacted negatively.
How? By more development pressures on lands and waters that need
to be protected or harbored from growth. By higher fees. By the
loss of critical services. By lower water quality and a decrease
in wildlife management.
DNR is just one agency facing cuts. Others face similar crises
involving loss of services. Before more services are gone, it's
really worth considering whether all of this cutting to save money
is really worth hurting our children's future and quality of life.
A watched pot won't boil
This week's cartoon by our Bill McLemore: