Upper Mississippi River guides, commercial users to see new rules, additional fees

LA CROSSE, Wis. — Federal wildlife officials have proposed a revised set of rules for guides and others who work on the Upper Mississippi River.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently released draft rules that would impose new fee schedules but limit the amount of money collected from fishing floats and commercial hunting, fishing and wildlife guides, the La Crosse Tribune reported.

The change comes a year after the Fish and Wildlife Service’s update to its 10-year-old comprehensive plan for the Upper Mississippi River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. The rules apply to more than 260 miles of the river between Wabasha, Minn., and Rock Island, Ill.

The agency had originally proposed taking 3 percent of gross revenues, with a $500 minimum payment. Guides, fishing float owners and state governments objected to the fees.

Under the new rules, float owners and commercial hunting and fishing guides would pay a $100 administrative fee, in addition to fees per client that would be capped at $500 a year. Wildlife observation guide fees would be capped at $300 per year.

While the revisions are an improvement over the previous proposal, Mark Clements said he’s still unhappy with the fees.

“I’m not saying I shouldn’t pay more,” Clements said, who owns Clements Fishing Barge in Genoa. “They’re picking on certain groups of businesses. There’s a lot of other businesses that utilize the refuge. But they’re not able to go after them at this point. They’re going after the ones they can.”

The existing $100 fee, which hasn’t been increased in more than 45 years, isn’t enough to cover administration and enforcement costs, the agency said.

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