Values, Priorities and Performance in the Management of Virginia's Fish and Wildlife Resources: A Comparative Study Between Internal and External Constituents of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
House Bill 38 will allocate up to $13 million per year in state sales tax revenue to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) beginning in Fiscal Year 2001. To plan for this major budget enhancement, the VDGIF asked us (in cooperation with Responsive Management and Dr. Brett Wright) to identify the agency programs and functions that VDGIF employees gave high priority to for the allocation of additional resources, and to compare these priorities with those of the agency's external constituents. We also evaluated how internal and external stakeholders rated agency performance in its programs.
Of all VDGIF functions, employees felt most strongly that more resources should be allocated to enhancing public awareness of VDGIF and to providing general wildlife-related education and information to Virginia citizens. Among constituent groups, employees placed higher priority for additional resources on educating and informing children and youth than they did on allocating additional resources to educate urban/suburban constituents, women and minorities.
Employees assigned high priority for additional resources to capital improvement needs and to land acquisition-related issues. Activities that improved the agency's ability to provide hunting opportunities such as enforcing laws that protect habitat, encouraging private landowners to open their lands for hunting and managing game animals also received high priority for additional resources.
Although employees felt that nearly all agency programs needed additional resources, their assessment of agency performance varied widely. Programs in which agency performance was relatively poor, such as acquisition of additional land and water for wildlife conservation, educating and informing citizens, and providing education and outreach to schools, have greater need for additional resources than programs in which agency performance was quite good (e.g., hunter education and enforcement programs).
Virginia citizens felt law enforcement and providing safety education for boating and hunting were VDGIF's most important functions. Both citizens and employees placed greater importance on the existence value of wildlife than they did on its recreational value. Virginia citizens placed significantly less importance on providing hunting opportunities than did VDGIF employees and substantially more on providing wildlife viewing opportunities than did agency personnel. This study also revealed substantial latent interest in fish and wildlife-oriented recreation among Virginians who currently do not participate and that all forms of wildlife-related recreation in Virginia have substantial growth potential.