ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says the price of hunting and fishing licenses needs to go up or its Game and Fishing Fund will cease to be solvent by as soon as next year.
The last time hunting and fishing licenses received a price hike was over a decade ago. At that time, a gallon of gasoline sold for $1.74. Since then, inflation has taken its toll on the currency and prices on nearly everything have risen.
According to the DNR, inflation has been eating away at the Game and Fish Fund at an alarming rate. Costs for gasoline, equipment and personnel continue to climb while revenues flowing into the fund remain the same.
The proposal before lawmakers would raise the price of a resident fishing license to $24 (up from $17) and a resident big game deer license to $30 (up from $26). A resident small game license would go up by $4.
Many outdoor enthusiasts and conservationists support the price hike, as it is the only way to protect habitats and preserve sporting areas.
Joe Duggan, the vice president of the conservation group Pheasants Forever, is aware of the need for habitat improvement projects and knows that the way that work gets done is through the funding the DNR receives.
“Those are the only dollars that the fish and game department of the DNR has to manage all our hunting, angling, and wildlife areas … All that stuff comes from license fees,” Duggan said.
When the fund goes into the red, state law requires the DNR to cut projects and programs. Effects will soon be felt in lake stocking programs, habitat improvement projects, even enforcement. Already, many positions around the state remain unfilled pending a clearer indication of the fund’s future revenues.
While the proposal to hike license fees has wide support among conservation and sporting groups, state lawmakers have been hesitant to approve the license increases. The proposal remains bogged down by the stalemate between Democrats and Republicans over the budget bill.
Many believe that anti-tax sentiments, which are pervasive in the capitol, are hurting the plan. Despite the fact that raising license fees is viewed as an increase in a “user fee” and not a tax!
Because of the lack of action on the plan, noted outdoorsmen, Bud Grant and Ron Schara, wrote an open letter to Minnesotans. The two are vocal supporters of raising more license revenue. They argue that the license to hunt and fish is the least expensive part of the outdoor experience.
“We want our grandchildren – and yours – to enjoy what we’ve had,” they said.
It makes sense to hunter and angler Wayne Jacobson. He says it is a small price to pay for a cherished privilege.
“I really think these extra funds will help them maintain and do some new habitat programs, so I’m really in favor of the increase,” Jacobson said.