License fee hikes kick in March 1
St. Paul — A license fee hike long sought by the Minnesota DNR, as well as with some of the state’s conservation groups, became reality last legislative session. Now, with what could amount to more than a 10-percent annual increase in the Game and Fish Fund, the department has begun setting priorities for the additional revenue.
That increase in funding should amount to about $10.7 million annually for the fund, according to Andre Prahl, DNR budget manager. About two-thirds of that amount will be available this year, as the fee increases take effect March 1.
How the new money is spent will depend on not only the DNR’s recommendations (due next week), but also the state Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton.
DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said much of the gains will be used to back-fill recent losses.
“From our standpoint, because the fee increase was so long in coming, really it’s intended to keep our foundational network of staff and programs in place,” Landwehr said.
Most of the additional dollars when made available will be used by the Division of Fish and Wildlife, and the Enforcement Division. The Ecological and Waters Resources Division, too, will share a small portion of the gains in the Fish and Wildlife Account, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division Director Ed Boggess said.
At the department’s early January roundtable event, Dirk Peterson, Fisheries chief, highlighted some priorities for the section. The increase, Peterson said, “wasn’t all we’d hoped for,” primarily because the fishing license fee increase approved by the Legislature was a couple dollars below that requested by the department.
A top Fisheries Section priority, Peterson said, is to restore positions at DNR field office locations. He said reductions over the years have led to a “razor-thin staff” in some locations.
Other priorities include more creel surveys of lakes, evaluation of experimental and special fishing regulations, and evaluation/fine-tuning of the state’s fish stocking.
Boggess said the Wildlife Section, too, has a priorities list, one that includes such things as habitat enhancement on state wildlife management areas; increased population assessment and monitoring of a variety of species, including waterfowl; a focus on wildlife health programs; outreach, recruitment, and retention regarding new hunters; additional focus on work on the prairie landscape; and emphasis on wildlife damage management, regarding species such as goose, turkey, and deer.
Prahl said it’s estimated that fishing license revenue will increase by about $5.5 million annually, hunting license revenue by about $3.3 million, and sport license revenue by about $1.9 million.
Currently, annual revenue deposited in the Game and Fish Fund amounts to about $95 million, according to Boggess. Fish and Wildlife Division expenditures devour about $70 million of that amount; Enforcement spends about $20 million.
It was suggested a year ago that if license fee prices didn’t rise, the Game and Fish Fund would “go negative” sometime during 2013. DNR officials say the current fee increase should avert such a possibility for another four to six years, depending on a number of other factors.
It’s probable the state’s share of federal Pittman-Robertson dollars (Wildlife Restoration Act) will increase during the next cycle, according to Prahl. States receive those funds from a federal excise tax on guns and ammunition. There was a bump in funding following the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, and most retailers have experienced another increase in the sale of guns and ammo during recent administration examination of more restrictions on firearms and related equipment following a school shooting in Connecticut.
Most sportsmen and women in Minnesota will notice more immediately the increase in the cost of the licenses they purchase this year, with an annual fishing license first on the list for many.
Beginning March 1, the cost of an annual resident adult fishing license will increase from $17 to $22 (doesn’t include issuing fees). It should be noted previous individual angling licenses (adult) were for those 16 and older. Come March 1, a $5 annual fishing license will be available for 16- and 17-year-olds.
A couple other options are new, and are intended to encourage infrequent anglers to fish – at least a little. A resident three-day license is available for $12, and a resident three-year license is available for $63.
A combination (husband/wife) annual fishing license (residents) will cost $35, up from $25. Some other angling licenses, including “lifetime” licenses, also will increase.
For nonresidents, the most noticeable of increases will be the annual fishing license increase from $39.50 to $45. However, nonresident youths ages 16-17 will be allowed to purchase the $5 annual fishing license.
Nonresident one-day, three-day, and week-long fishing licenses also will see various price increases.
On the hunting side of the ledger, resident deer-hunting licenses for adults – firearms, archery, and muzzleloader – will increase from the current $26 to $30. Small-game licenses for adults will rise from $19 to $22. Small-game licenses for those ages 16 and 17, however, will decrease from $12.50 to $5.
A resident bear license will increase from $38 to $44, and other licenses, too, will increase in price.
Nonresident adult deer hunters will see licenses – firearms, archery, and muzzleloader – increase from $140 to $165. A nonresident small-game license will rise from $84.50 to $102. A spring turkey license for a nonresident adult will cost $96, versus the previous $83.
For those residents who like to wrap a number of transactions/license purchases into one event, the sports license (angling and small-game license) will increase from $29.50 to $31.50, and a new “super sports” license will be an option for residents. That license, which includes angling license and trout stamps; small-game license along with state waterfowl and pheasant stamps; and one deer tag for the archery, firearms, or muzzleloader season, will cost $92.50.
Check out the 2013 fishing regulations and hunting and trapping regulations handbooks as they become available for more information.