Friday, October 23, 1998The purchase of hunting, fishing and other recreation licenses will see a dramatic change in the next few years, the result of a contract that Fish, Wildlife & Parks announced today with telecommunications specialists, MCIWORLDCOM Inc.
FWP Director Patrick Graham announced the agreement, which commits FWP to the development and implementation of an automated licensing system. Graham said the partnership with MCIWORLDCOM Inc., and the Helena-based software development firm Western Computer Services, Inc., is the product of an initiative that started more than four years ago and was approved by the 1997 Montana Legislature. The new system--developed with the assistance hunters, anglers, license agents, industry experts, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and FWP employees--is scheduled to go on line as a pilot in the fall of 2000, with all license agents going on line in 2001.
Graham said it is time for FWP to move into the information age. Today, license agents, as they have since 1901, write by hand or type information on licenses, store the carbon copies, and then at the end of each month send the copies and fees to FWP's Helena headquarters. New electronic technology will allow daily transfer of information and cut the time it takes to issue a license in half.
Graham listed several specific benefits including:
- Better fish and wildlife management. More accurate harvest and use surveys will improve setting of seasons and quotas. It will also allow for quick communication with hunters when bighorn sheep, mountain lion or other hunting-district quotas are reached.
- Improved law enforcement capabilities, such as timely identification of people illegally purchasing resident licenses. Due to lag times and inaccuracies inherent in the current system, FWP game wardens sometimes must wait months to determine if a suspected violator has illegally obtained hunting and/or fishing licenses.
- More effective delivery of information for educational efforts and programs. For instance, FWP will be able to identify Montana's bear hunters and provide each of them with specific information on black and grizzly bear identification.
- All license agents will be able to sell or replace all license types. This will improve service to persons with disabilities and others where licenses are currently sold only at FWP headquarters.
- License purchasing time will be cut in half. The first time a license is purchased, an agent will enter the individual's vital information into the system. Future license purchases then become a matter of selecting a license and printing it at any agent's work station.
- License buyers will no longer be required to keep records of Hunter Education, Bowhunter Education or disability certification. Once entered, information will be permanently maintained in computer files.
- Better cash flow for FWP. Currently, it takes an average of 60 days for FWP to receive license dollars from agents. The automated system will allow transfer of fees within a week.
- The FWP Commission asked FWP to pursue a preference system for limited license and permit applicants. The automated licensing system is the specific tool that will allow for that type of a system to be implemented.
The system will link all Montana license agents to FWP via a communication web capable of delivering licensing information back and forth between a central data base and the agents' small, on-site computers. One-time development costs are contracted at $4.8 million, with annual operating costs expected to be approximately $725,000. Federal Aid in Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration funds will finance approximately one-third of the project, with two-thirds coming from Montana hunting and fishing license revenues.
Graham encouraged anyone with questions to contact FWP's Administration and Finance Division in Helena.