Plan to hike license fees gets mixed reaction
Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder’s request for an increase in hunting and fishing license fees has created a stir in the conservation community. In his 2014 budget, Snyder calls for restructuring the hunting and fishing license system and increasing fees on most licenses. If approved, the increases would generate an additional $18.3 million for the DNR. The last time the Legislature raised license fees was 1997.
The plan calls for eliminating the current two-tiered fishing license and replacing it with one all-species license for $25. It also calls for a base hunting license that would cost $10. Additional individual species licenses like deer ($20 after the increase), bear ($25), and turkey ($15) could then be added. It reduces more than 200 current licenses down to 31.
While some conservation organizations support an increase, several questions remain unanswered.
“It seems like bear hunters are being forced to make a larger share of financing game management. Bear hunters have a higher increase than any other hunting license, and the senior discount doesn’t apply to bear hunters,” Matt Pedigo, president of the Michigan Bear Hunters Association, told Michigan Outdoor News. “We like that they are trying to simplify the license system and think it’s a much-needed change, but we do have some concerns.”
Pedigo said he’d like to see a commitment from the DNR to conduct more research and studies.
“I’d like to see some of that money used for biological research. It doesn’t seem like there is anything (money) for wildlife research and scientific studies,” he said.
Snyder’s proposal calls for a DNR operating budget of $351.8 million in 2014 and an increase in state General Fund allocations to the DNR of $24.7 million (7 percent of the total budget), up from this year’s $17.6 million.
“Hunter, angler, and trapper dollars fund the lion’s share of conservation in Michigan, and our license fees are a large part of the Department of Natural Resources’ operating budget,” Erin McDonough, executive director of Michigan United Conservation Clubs, said in a statement. “Our members deserve the very best in resource management that those license dollars can deliver.
“We are in favor of simplifying regulations and in having an easy-to-understand licensing system so long as it means the end result is a better system and better on-the-ground investments for sportsmen and women,” McDonough said.
“We are currently evaluating the proposal and taking a hard look at current DNR spending. For the last year, at the request of our members, we’ve worked with the department to improve transparency and to get the information we need to be able to understand how our license fees are spent and where they should be focused in the future.
“We appreciate the Snyder administration’s commitment to measurable results and openness to helping us answer the question: ‘Where are our license fees spent?’ We look forward to working with the governor, the DNR, and our members in this process.”
Dan Kimmel, owner of GreatLakesBass.com and an avid Michigan bass angler, supports the increase, but has concerns.
“Will it have another negative impact on license sales?” Kimmel asked. “I think the dedicated anglers will be supportive of the increase, but I worry about the guys who only go fishing three or four times a year. Will they be willing to pay $25?
“We obviously need a license fee hike. DNR (personnel) numbers are down so far from where they should be,” he said. “But bass anglers are taken for granted in Michigan. I’d hate to give the DNR more money to continue to do things like they do. For instance, Michigan is one of just four states nationwide that have a closed season on bass. Biologically there is no reason to close the season.”
Dean Hall, president of Michigan Bow Hunters, said his group supports the license fee hike, but also has questions.
“MBA supports fair and equitable license fee increases. Things like habitat work and adding COs in the field are things the state sorely needs,” Hall said. “We do need an increase, but I’m not sure exactly how it will be laid out. I’ve been told there will be no antlerless option on a bow license anymore. I’m waiting to see the specifics.”
The battle for a license fee increase has begun.