Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

PA: License buyers may get prizes

Harrisburg – There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about
the need to find ways to keep people hunting and fishing.

Could prizes be part of the answer?

Well, some seem to think so.

Take the case of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission. The
agency is asking lawmakers to give it the flexibility to sell
multi-year licenses, something that Senate Bill 1049 would
authorize.

The benefit is obvious, officials have said. Each time a fisherman
buys a license, the commission gets federal revenue. Research has
shown that anglers come and go with amazing frequency, though –
fewer than one in 10 purchase a license ever year for five years
straight – so that federal funding comes and goes, too.

If an angler bought, say, a three- or five-year license, the
commission would get three or five years of federal revenue
regardless of whether the anglers ever fished or not.

Some anglers might buy a multi-year license simply for
convenience’s sake, said Bernie Matscavage, director of the
commission’s bureau of administration. PennDOT has been offering
drivers the chance to register trailers for three years at a time
rather than annually, and 28 percent of people have opted to do
that, he said.

But commission officials think they might do better than that with
the right incentives. That’s where prizes could come in.

Just as some magazines offer subscribers gifts – say a pocket knife
or tote bag – for subscribing for a period of years, the commission
might give multi-year license buyers a subscription to its “Angler
& Boater” magazine or something else, said Executive Director
John Arway.

Florida’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission is
experimenting with such a “value-added” strategy right now, he
said.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is considering something similar.
It has no multi-year license in the works. But there has been talks
within the agency about experimenting with giving away prizes –
including firearms and even a truck – to people who routinely buy
licenses, perhaps as soon as next year, said Joe Neville, director
of the agency’s bureau of information and education.

Neville told members of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s
Clubs that hunters who buy licenses for a period of years could be
entered into a drawing, with winners picked at random from that
select group.

“Now I just need to find a truck,” he joked.

There’s no laughing about the need for the commissions to find new
revenues, though, officials with both agencies say.

The Fish & Boat Commission, for example, has traditionally
asked state lawmakers to raise the price of fishing licenses every
time it’s needed more money. But Arway wants to get away from that
and has made “hold the line on license fees,” his new slogan.

There’s a reason for that, he said. Raising licenses causes the
commission to lose 8 to 10 percent of its anglers. There was a time
when they came back, but that’s no longer the case, he added.

Add in the fact that federal funding is getting tighter and “the
future isn’t bright for funding,” Arway said.

Simply cutting spending isn’t the answer either, he said, because
eventually there’s no more fat to cut.

“We can’t just take pennies away from all these programs to stay
within [our budget] guidelines because there just aren’t any more
pennies to take,” Arway said.

Instead, he’s trying to keep the commission spending no more than
it takes in while he works to convince lawmakers to give the
commission new sources of funding, such as a share of any Marcellus
shale impact fee or tax.

“I’ve got to buy some time,” Arway said.

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