CONCORD — A slight hike in the rooms and meals tax, a $1 million increase in support from the state general fund and a mandatory registration fee for canoes and kayaks are among the recommendations to emerge from yet another study on the future of the Fish and Game Department.

The 12-member commission, comprised of lawmakers, agency personnel and stakeholders, has submitted its final report to the Legislature with this caveat: “It’s time for New Hampshire to realize what outdoor recreation means to the quality of life and the economy of this state.”

Underlying the report is a recurring theme. New Hampshire’s spectacular wildlife and outdoor resources are essential to the success of the state’s tourism industry, yet the funding for the agency charged with managing those resources does not reflect that reality.

As revenues from hunting licenses declines and demands on the agency increase, the self-reliant funding model has been stretched to the breaking point.

Since 2014 nearly $4.2 million has been allocated to Fish and Game from the state general fund to shore up its wobbly finances, with little likelihood that the agency will ever be fully self-funded again, absent some major changes.

This is not a new problem. The commission that recently wrapped up its work, chaired by outgoing Republican Sen. Kevin Avard of Nashua, is the third such group convened by the Legislature in the past four years.

Fish and Game study commissions in 2013 and 2014 issued reports that called for a new fee of $10 a year on non-motorized watercraft (motorboats already pay); and a thorough examination of whether the time has come to fund Fish and Game like other state agencies, through the state general fund.

The only thing to come from those commissions was a $10-a-year increase in hunting and fishing license fees that took effect in 2016, and yet another study commission in 2018.

Unlike the previous two commissions, Avard’s group was much larger and had representatives from all the stakeholder groups, including both “consumptive” users (hunters, trappers) and “non-consumptive” stakeholders (hikers, kayakers).

Funding ‘inadequate’

“The commission has learned the funding needed to support the department’s budget has not kept pace with the cost of services it provides,” writes Avard in the introduction to the commission report. “The commission believes steps must be taken in the near future to correct the budget issues that are constraining the department’s capacity to meet its mission.”

Those steps include:

• Leverage the rooms and meals tax. This recommendation includes an increase of one-eighth of 1 percent in the rooms and meals tax, now at 9 percent, with all the new money dedicated to Fish and Game.