PHOENIX — It’s officially called “Cheers to Arizona Wildlife.”
But a new program to raise money for the state Game and Fish Department might better be labeled, “Drink a Beer, Save a Deer.”
The department is partnering with a Flagstaff craft brewery to get some money every time someone buys a can of its summer Kolsch style ale, to the tune of a dollar a case.
So far, Mother Road Brewing Co. has written a check for $10,000.
But Game and Fish Commissioner Kurt Davis hopes there will be more coming before the run for this year’s product is complete. And there are efforts to extend the program into 2020.
The company is getting some high-level publicity, complete with a ceremony featuring Gov. Doug Ducey praising the brewery and photo ops of him not just holding up the can — label forward, please — but tasting the beer.
Ducey called it “a unique partnership between two things we know and love: amazing Arizona wildlife and craft beer.”
He suggested this could serve as a model for other state departments looking for dollars they’re not getting from the Legislature.
“I challenge all of our agencies and directors to be innovative, to think outside the box,” he said.
Davis said the Game and Fish Department’s $126 million budget is funded entirely from sources outside of state government.
About a third of that comes from the fees charged for fishing and hunting licenses and tags, with an equal amount from an excise tax on firearms, ammunition, certain fishing gear and motor boat fuel. The balance includes dollars from lottery ticket sales and a share of tribal gaming revenues.
“The bottom line is this: Conserving wildlife is an expensive proposition,” Davis said, noting that includes preserving habitat.
“The only other idea would be to just continually raise license fees,” he said. “And that gets to a point where it would be prohibitive for families to go fishing and hunting and those kinds of things.”
Anyway, he said, there are Arizonans who want to help preserve wildlife but don’t hunt or fish. He said this is one way to allow them to contribute financially.
Game and Fish staffers said they approached Mother Road last November with a deal to rebrand the Kolsch product with the department’s “conserve and protect” messaging right on the cans.
Davis said he was unconcerned about the idea of having the governor and commissioners promoting a specific product. Ducey, too, was not shy about promoting the partnership and the product.
“That’s really what tonight is all about: supporting small business while preserving Arizona’s natural treasures,” Ducey said at the Tuesday evening event.
While the governor agreed to take pictures with the can of ale, he was not interested in posing with the animals the Game and Fish Department brought along to the event, including a horned owl, a goshawk, a desert tortoise and a rosy boa, one of two constrictors native to this country.