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Utah raises money through permit auctions

SALT LAKE CITY(— Sometimes it take big bucks to land a
buck.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources regularly sells
hard-to-get hunting permits as a way to raise money to expand the
population of wildlife.

Hunting tags from 11 states, Canada and Mexico and the Navajo
Nation will be available this week at banquets tied to the Western
Hunting and Conservation Expo in Salt Lake City.

David Meyer of Memphis, Tenn., spent $156,000 for a Utah tag
that allowed him to kill just one mule deer in 2006.

``I bought that tag for the opportunities it gives myself and my
family to fund conservation projects to benefit all mule deer in
Utah,'' Meyer said.

``If that money wasn't slated for conservation, I'd go through
the drawing process for a chance to take a trophy animal just like
everybody else,'' he said.

The Utah wildlife agency is providing 359 permits, ranging from
moose to bison to turkey, to hunting groups for auction this year.

Utah requires 30 percent of the winning bid be returned to the
state. The hunting group that sells the permit can return another
60 percent to the agency or use the money for its own conservation
efforts.

The state has raised more than $9.5 million in the past 10 years
and expects to collect more than $2.5 million this year.

The auction tags, which are treated as tax-deductible
contributions, can be worth even more if the money is used to get
federal grants.

More than 50 bighorn sheep from Montana will be released this
week in American Fork and Willow Creek canyons, the result of money
raised through the program, said Alan Clark, assistant director of
the Division of Wildlife Resources.

Concerned that rank-and-file hunters were being shut out, Utah
wildlife officials introduced the sportsman tag.

For $5, they can enter a drawing for a chance at a tag that
gives them an opportunity to pursue a certain species on an any
open unit in the state, just like the deep-pocketed hunters.

Russ Young, a retired businessman from Illinois, said he has
spent $1.5 million on conservation permits in five years. He likes
to donate money to preserve wildlife, just like some people
contribute to cancer research.

``The underlying and most important thing is that it provides
funds to game-and-fish departments that they desperately need to
fund projects,'' he said.