Gov. proposes a toast — and new program — to preserve wildlife
PHOENIX — It’s officially called “Cheers to Arizona Wildlife.’’
But a new program to raise money for the state Game and Fish Department might better be labeled, “Drink a Beer, Save a Deer.’’
The agency is partnering with a Flagstaff craft brewery to get some money every time someone buys a can of its summer Kolsch style ale, to the tune of a dollar a case.
So far Mother Road Brewing Co. has written out a check for $10,000. But Commissioner Kurt Davis said he hopes that there will be more coming before the run for this year’s product is complete. And there are efforts to extend the program into 2020.
What the company is getting is some high-level publicity, complete with a ceremony featuring Gov. Doug Ducey praising the company and photo ops of him not just holding up the can -- label forward, please -- but actually tasting it. He called it “a unique partnership between two things we know and love: amazing Arizona wildlife and craft beer.’’
And the governor even suggested that this could serve as a model for other state department looking for dollars that they’re not getting from the Legislature.
“I challenge all of our agencies and directors to be innovative, to think outside the box,’’ he said.
Kurt Davis, one of the commissioners, said that’s precisely what’s at work here.
He said the agency’s $126 million budget is funded entirely from sources outside of state government. About a third of that comes from the fees charged for fishing and hunting licenses and tags, with an equal amount from an excise tax on firearms, ammunition, certain fishing gear and motor boat fuel. The balance includes dollars from Lottery ticket sales and a share of tribal gaming revenues.
“The bottom line is this: Conserving wildlife is an expensive proposition,’’ he said. That includes preserving habitat.
“The only other idea would be to just continually raise license fees,’’ Davis explained. “And that gets to a point where it would be prohibitive for families to go fishing and hunting and those kinds of things.’’
Anyway, he said, there are Arizonans who want to help preserve wildlife but just don’t hunt or fish. Davis said this is one way to allow them to contribute financially.
This isn’t the agency’s first foray into getting money from those who own neither hunting rifle or fishing rod.
“We have, for example, what we call a conservation membership package,’’ Davis said, starting at $35 a year. That provides a subscription to the department’s quarterly email newsletter and a set of wildlife note cards.
And for $100, “they get really a very nice magazine.’’
Game and Fish staffers said they approached Mother Road this past November, with a deal to rebrand the Kolsch product with the agency’s “conserve and protect’’ messaging right on the cans.
Davis said he was unconcerned about the idea of having the governor and commissioners promoting a specific product, in this case a specific ale produced by a specific brewery. He said this is hardly a random paring.
“The people that we engage in this business with are people that want to be part of conserving wildlife,’’ Davis said. He said that ranges from the culture of the company to whether it is based in Arizona.
“And do they care ultimately about conserving wildlife?’’ Davis said.
Ducey, for his part, was not shy about promoting the partnership -- and the product.
“That’s really what tonight is all about: supporting small business while preserving Arizona’s natural treasures,’’ he said at the Tuesday evening event.
The governor also took the opportunity to remind those in attendance of legislation he signed his first year in office raising the cap on the amount of beer that a brewery can produce and still keep its “microbrewery’’ status that allows it to still own and run restaurants. The result, he said, it that there are now more than 100 breweries in Arizona.
Finally, there was the plug.
“And Mother Road Brewing Co. has earned a reputation for creating some of the very best of that product,’’ Ducey said.
While the governor agreed to take pictures with a can of ale, he was not interested in posing with the animals the Game and Fish Department brought along to the event, including a horned owl, a goshawk, a desert tortoise and a rosy boa, one of two constrictors native to this country.
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