A dedicated source of funding for projects that benefit Utah wildlife.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has issued conservation permits to generate funds for specific species since 1981. The program began with a "high bid permit" for a desert bighorn ram and has expanded over the years to include all big game species, as well as cougar, bear and wild turkeys. Between 2002 and 2006 there was an attempt to market tundra swan and sandhill crane permits, and in 2006 a minimal number of sage grouse and sharp-tailed grouse permits were made available. However, the program continues to focus on mule deer, Rocky Mountain elk, pronghorn, moose, bison, bighorn sheep, Rocky Mountain goat, cougar, black bear and wild turkey.
Over the years, the number of permits has ranged from one permit in 1981 and 1982 to 367 permits in 2009. Since 1981, bull Rocky Mountain elk permits have been the most common permit, with 995 permits offered. Over 920 wild turkey permits have been offered since 1981. Ninety-eight permits have been offered since 1981 for the wildlife species that started the program – desert bighorn sheep.
Mule Deer Foundation (MDF), Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife Inc. (SFFW), Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), Foundation for North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS), National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), Safari Club International (SCI) and Utah Bowman for Habitat (UBA) have been the most consistent program participants. California Deer Association, Boone & Crockett and Ducks Unlimited have participated on occasion.
The Conservation Permit Program provides a dedicated source of funding for special projects to benefit Utah's wildlife. The revenue is used to fund projects, which could not otherwise be funded under the DWR's normal operating budget. These special projects have included aerial surveys, transplants, radio telemetry studies, special research projects and habitat enhancement projects. Also, the program involves conservation groups in fund-raising and projects at the local level.
The number of conservation permits authorized by the Wildlife Board is based on, the species population trend, size and distribution to protect the long-term health of the population, the hunting and viewing opportunity for the general public, both short and long term, and the potential revenue that will support protection and enhancement of the species.
The revenue is used to fund projects, which could not otherwise be funded under the DWR's normal operating budget.
Big game conservation permits are allocated for both statewide and area hunts. Statewide hunters are given expanded hunting seasons while permits for specific areas are restricted to regular seasons. One statewide conservation permit may be authorized for each conservation permit species. A limited number of area conservation permits may be authorized with a maximum of 10 percent of the total permits, assigned to a hunt area or combination of hunt areas, for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and desert bighorn sheep. A maximum of five percent of the permits or eight permits, whichever is less, for any unit or hunt area for the remaining conservation permit species.
As a reward to the general hunter who cannot afford to pay for a statewide conservation permit, one statewide sportsman permit is authorized for each statewide conservation permit and is offered to residents through a drawing. Sportsmen permits are offered for each of the following species: desert bighorn, bison, buck deer, bull elk, rocky mountain bighorn, rocky mountain goat, bull moose, buck pronghorn, black bear, cougar, and wild turkey.
The PDFs below show permits issued by year, money raised and projects funded. The organization heading indicates whether the funding came from the revenue returned to DWR or the 60 percent of revenue kept by an organization.
Conservation organizations are allowed to retain 10 percent of the revenue raised from the sale of permits for administrative costs (permit promotions and to support organization programs). An additional 60 percent of the revenue may be retained and used by the conservation organization for eligible projects. The remaining 30 percent of the revenue comes back to the Division for managing that species of wildlife.
Eligible projects include habitat improvement, habitat acquisition, transplants, targeted education efforts and other projects providing substantial benefit to the species of wildlife for which conservation permits are issued.
The conservation permit rule was recently changed to allow multi-year conservation permits while still giving the option for single-year conservation permits. Multi-year permits will allow organizations to better market permits. Also, the over all number of permits was reduced, which has resulted in more public permits.
In 2010, the Special Antelope Island State Park Conservation Permit was added to the Conservation and Sportsmen Permits rule. This special conservation permit allowed conservation organizations to market a permit to hunt bighorn sheep or mule deer on Antelope Island State Park. The permit is for one year. The conservation organization that successfully markets the permits is allowed to keep 10 percent of the revenue for administration costs, then transfers the remaining 90 percent to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, which in turn, transfers the funds to the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation as provided in a cooperative agreements between the two divisions. This process provides needed revenue to support the management of wildlife species on the island.