Future uncertain for state stamps

St. Paul The advent of electronic licensing could bring about
the demise of a popular Minnesota outdoor tradition: state fish and
wildlife stamps.

That’s one of four options the Minnesota DNR is considering in
solving new problems with the long-standing program.

Implementing electronic licensing effectively eliminated the
need for wildlife stamps, because the new computerized licenses
simply itemize stamp payments along with other fees and tags. The
DNR was prepared to scrap the program until Rep. Doug Peterson,
DFL-Madison, sponsored legislation last session requiring the state
to maintain the stamps.

Minnesotans purchase $5 habitat stamps for wild turkey,
waterfowl, pheasant hunting, and an $8.50 trout stamp. The $2
million in annual stamp proceeds enter funds specifically earmarked
for habitat and enhancement programs for those species. The
contests also are popular among the state’s many wildlife artists,
including Peterson, who enters the trout contest annually.

Currently, the DNR has 30 days to mail stamps to hunters and
anglers after purchase at an ELS agent. The ELS itemization
verifies purchase with conservation officers while users wait for
the stamp to arrive in the mail. Once users receive the stamp, they
must sign it and keep it on their person while partaking in the
activity. The unnecessary confusion and hassle has resulted in user
complaints this year, says Tom Keefe, ELS coordinator with the
DNR.

“We’ve had lots of calls from people questioning why they need
it, when it’s coming, and what purpose do they serve?” Keefe
said.

The bigger issue to many conservation groups has been the cost
of mailing out the now-obsolete stamps. The DNR spends $200,000 in
mailing costs money that some user groups believe should be
reinvested in the resource.

In late August, the DNR compiled a paper on the problem with
four potential alternatives to solve it. They are:

Make no changes. This alternative would leave the current#
requirement and stamp distribution in place. Hunters and anglers
would have to continue keeping them signed and on their person.

Discontinue the requirement of a pictorial stamp as a license
document, but continue issuing or selling collector stamps.
Customers could request a pictorial stamp be mailed to them and
would pay a handling fee for each stamp of about $2.

Eliminate the pictorial stamp entirely. Hunters and anglers
would still purchase the stamp validation, which would appear on
their ELS printout.

Allow a conservation organization to develop a state stamp fund
raising project.

The DNR met with representatives from several conservation
groups, including the Minnesota Waterfowl Association, Trout
Unlimited, Minnesota Trout Association, and the Wild Turkey
Federation on Sept. 6 to discuss the above alternatives and other
options, Keefe said. The quorum did not reach any conclusions, he
said.

“Nobody wants to lose stamps but they feel it’s a waste of
money,” he said.

Division Director Ron Payer said Fisheries said the trout groups
are leaning toward discontinuing mailing out the stamps and
continuing it as a collector’s program. One option suggested has
been converting the stamp contests into poster contests, which
would promote the species as well as the art.

Ed Boggess, DNR wildlife program manager, said the department
will continue discussing the issue and is planning to reconvene
with user groups sometime in November. In the meantime, the
department remains open to other ideas.

“We’d like to get consensus on this if at all possible,” he
said.

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