Sunday, February 5th, 2023
Sunday, February 5th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

License fee increase is considered by CC panel

Correspondent

Waupaca, Wis. Gov. Jim Doyle wants to know whether most
sportsmen would support a hunting, fishing, and trapping license
fee increase that he intends to include in the next budget, and
he’s asking the Conservation Congress to help gather those
comments.

“The governor has said he’s going to put a fee increase into his
budget,” said Russell Hitz, of Wheeler, chairman of the
Conservation Congress Alternative Funding Advisory Committee, which
met Oct. 22 in Waupaca. “I want to find out how his package is
going to affect sportsmen. We sent a message back and the governor
said before the (state Department of Natural Resources) puts
anything together, they want to hear from groups to see what areas
are important. We have guys who are duck hunters. We have guys who
are trout fishermen. They love the outdoors, but there are certain
things that they really get behind.”

The eight-member committee wants to hear from sportsmen, and the
Oct. 22 meeting was the most recent opportunity for groups to voice
their concerns.

Jeff Nania, of Portage, the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association’s
executive director, said his group supports an across-the-board
license and stamp fee increase.

“Hunters, anglers and trappers of Wisconsin provide millions of
dollars annually to support the natural resources of Wisconsin,”
Nania said. “Revenues from the sale of licenses and associated
stamps provide significant support to the DNR, paying for staff and
facilities to support field, administrative, and recreational
activities. This funding is critical to the future of the DNR.”

However, Nania has been critical of the DNR’s use of license fee
money and stamp money especially the use of state duck stamp funds.
Although WWA supports a license fee increase, Nania said that
support depends on several factors, including:

Direct field operations of the DNR must be funded first;

There will be “thoughtful, meaningful discussion regarding
compatible uses” of state-owned or supported property;

The DNR will focus on developing, implementing, and continuing
hands-on environmental education opportunities for grades K-12;

The DNR will develop an effective statewide outdoor skills
mentor program;

A certain percentage of the new funds from the fee increase will
directly support hunting, fishing, and trapping programs for women
in the outdoors.

Nania said he realizes that a fee increase won’t be an easy
sell, especially to legislators.

“This is not going to be a legislative cakewalk,” he said.
“There are a lot of legislators who are against any type of fee
increase, but this is something that needs to be fixed. We’re
willing to work with legislators to get this passed. I hope they’ll
take our request very, very seriously.”

Former DNR secretary George Meyer is now executive director of
the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation (WWF). Meyer said WWF supports a
license increase, but he, too, said the DNR’s spending behavior
must change.

“The hunting and fishing account should not be used for chronic
wasting disease,” Meyer said. “We didn’t cause this problem as
anglers. We shouldn’t be paying for it.”

Rebecca Baumann, executive director of the Wisconsin Land and
Water Conservation Association, said her group is recommending that
the state’s vehicle transfer title fee, which is at $7.50, be
increased to $10. The additional $2.50 would be used to fund county
conservation department staff.

“Program responsibilities have increased with the passing of
nonpoint pollution standards and other mandatory programs, but
funding has decreased by $4 million since 1990, with a loss of 50
conservation positions,” Baumann said. “This fee increase might
potentially generate an additional $2 million per year.”

She said other options to consider include an increase in the
motorboat gasoline tax, dedicating a portion of the ethanol gas tax
to nonpoint pollution, and a fee connected to boats or
trailers.

“Funding of the nonpoint pollution program is essential to
ensure the preservation of our natural resources, and this is our
No. 1 concern and priority,” Baumann said. “Along with the
Wisconsin Association of Lakes, we are very concerned about the
growing problem of aquatic invasives. Proactive measures are more
cost-effective than reactive measures. Some damage is irreversible,
and our water must be protected.”

“One thing that we do know is if we keep cutting wardens,
license sales are going to go down you’re going to have more
violators and everybody’s going to lose in the long run,” Hitz
added. “It’s no different than the State Patrol. You take officers
off the road and it’s the same thing.”

Hitz expects the committee to hold a similar meeting after the
deer hunting season.

“We’ll know what the license sales are and we can start
developing a package for the DNR,” he said. “What we’re trying to
do is make sure that fish hatcheries, for example, are funded so
that we have enough stocking fish and we’re not relying just on
reproduction.”

It’s too soon to say what Doyle will propose as far as license
increases, according to Hitz.

“What we do know is he has asked us to have input into it,” Hitz
said. “I think that’s fantastic. Every person who has a concern
should voice their opinion to the department or to us so they can
have some input. What that does is get everybody involved.

“The department can say, Hey, the people said they want this
supported, so we have to find a way to give them more in this
area,’ ” he said. “He’s going about it in the right way. When we
came to this meeting two years ago, we had three options: A, B, or
C. We didn’t have a chance to do any changing.”

“If we care about hunting and fishing in Wisconsin, we have to
get this done,” Nania said. “I hope you choose to do something that
will repair the situation long-term. We have to hit a home run with
this.”

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