Schaeffer: Securing Financial Stability for the Commission Is Key

This article is part 3 of a 4-part series on the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s current and most recently retired Executive Directors: Tim Schaeffer and John Arway, respectively. RiverStewards is a proud supporter and partner of the Commission and all the great work that it does to protect and enhance Pennsylvania’s waterways, aquatic habitat, and recreational amenities.

When asked why he decided to accept the role as the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission‘s new executive director, Tim Schaeffer answered without hesitation.

“It’s an opportunity for me to make as big of a difference as I can for conservation here in Pennsylvania.”

Schaeffer officially assumed the executive director position on November 13, 2018.

“This is a unique chance to work for a great organization with a great history,” Schaeffer adds.

The PA Fish and Boat Commission, which has a history in the state spanning as far back as 1866, is clear in its mission: protect, conserve, and enhance the Commonwealth’s aquatic resources and provide fishing and boating opportunities.

“Frankly,” Schaeffer says, “those are the reasons I went into the field in the first place.” Environmental conservation is the field Schaeffer has spent almost the entirety of his career working in – particularly for the state of Pennsylvania.

A Career in Conservation

Schaeffer, who grew up hunting and fishing, began his career in conservation after earning his Master’s in Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).

“It was while I was attending CMU that it dawned on me to have a career in conservation,” he reflected.

Not long after graduating, Schaeffer worked briefly for the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers (POWR) before spending several years working for the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC). While at PEC, his work focused on policy and advocacy for state and national level environmental issues.

Eventually, in 2008, Schaeffer had his first stint at the state’s Fish and Boat Commission, where he spent just under nine years as the Commission’s policy and planning director. He then left the organization to spend a year at the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) serving as the Deputy Secretary of Water Programs. He has since returned to the Fish and Boat Commission to assume the role of Executive Director, after John Arway retired (see our two previous blog posts about Arway’s legacy).

Looking Forward in the Short- and Long-term

As Executive Director, Schaeffer has set his focus on both short and long-term goals for the Commission. In the short term, Schaeffer believes the most pressing issue is securing financial stability.

Although a government agency, the Commission does not receive any General Fund revenue. Instead, the Commission is almost entirely user funded. In other words, the Commission relies heavily upon fees from fishing licenses and boat registrations. While the Commission relies on those fees, they have not been raised since 2005. Meanwhile, costs continue to climb.

To remedy this, Schaeffer and his staff have been working with state legislators to pass Pennsylvania House Bill 808, which would grant the Commission more independence in how fees are established and maintained. If the bill passes, Schaeffer plans to focus on implementing gradual fee increases, as opposed to the current model of large fee increases once every 10-15 years, which the agency has done historically. By doing so, Schaeffer believes this will alleviate the shock of sharp increases on the state’s anglers and boaters while providing the Commission with a stronger revenue stream.

As for the long term, Schaeffer intends to spend much of 2019 working with the board and his staff to develop an updated strategic plan and budget for the Commission. With so many initiatives underway at the Commission, Schaeffer is confident in the abilities of his excellent staff. He’s also thankful for the vital role the public and other conservancy organizations play in the Commission’s success.

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