Hunting and fishing license fee hikes deserve support
Governor Rick Snyder turned heads last week when he announced plans for a hunting and fishing license fee increase in his proposed budget. Snyder’s plan would revamp the structure of the license system in Michigan and generate much needed $18.3 million for the DNR.
The time is ripe for a license fee hike in Michigan. Only the legislature can raise license fees in Michigan and it’s been 16 years since legislators last raised hunting and fishing license fees, which are the major source of funding for the DNR’s Fisheries, Wildlife and Law Enforcement divisions. Can you imagine owning a business and not raising the price of your product for 16 years? You'd likely be out of business.
Heck, the cost of gas alone has risen over 300 percent since 1997 when it averaged around $1.06 a gallon. And what about increases in supplies and the cost of living and doing business?
Snyder’s plan calls for eliminating the two-tiered fishing license and replacing it with one, all-species license. The cost would be $25.
Hunters would have to purchase a base license for $10 before buying any other licenses. The base license would allow the holder to hunt waterfowl and small game. Deer licenses would increase to $20 and bear to $25, but trapping licenses and spring and fall turkey hunting licenses would remain $15. Seniors would receive a 60-percent discount on licenses. Individual non-resident licenses would cost the same as a resident license, but the base license for a non-resident would cost $150.
Even with the increases, Michigan’s licenses would cost less than in most of the states around us. For instance, an all-species fishing license costs $40 in Wisconsin, $28 in Indiana and Illinois and $19 in Ohio. A base hunting license costs $18 in Wisconsin, $18 in Illinois, $17 in Indiana and $19 in Ohio. Deer hunting licenses cost $24 in Wisconsin, $25 in Illinois, $24 in Indiana, and $24 in Ohio. You get the picture?
Snyder didn’t stop at a license fee increase in his quest to generate funding for conservation. He also proposed increasing the state’s General Fund appropriations to the DNR from $17.6 million annually to $24.7 million; appropriating $2 million to replace an aged fishery research vessels; and $4 million to the state police for natural resource emergency response.
The General Fund appropriation, coupled with the proposed license fee increase, would immediately put 41 additional conservation officers in the field, as well as supply funding for other major fisheries and wildlife programs.
The legislature must approve the budget and pass legislation on the statute portion of a license fee increase.
Historically, sportsmen’s license fees and excise taxes on the goods we use to hunt and fish have been main source of revenue for conservation in Michigan and across the country. We should continue to demand the wise use of our natural resources and pledge our support for that effort through this much needed license fee increase.