License fee restructuring set in budget

Albany — A slightly modified version of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s sporting license restructuring proposal was poised to be approved as part of the state budget late last week.

Designed to simplify the sporting license structure and to lure more nonresident sportsmen and women into New York, the plan reduces the costs of several licenses, eliminates some entirely, and alters the hunting license year from its current Oct. 1-Sept. 30 to Sept. 1-Aug. 31.

It will also make fishing licenses good for one year from the date of sale.

The proposal takes effect Feb 1, 2014, to coincide with the transition to a new e-licensing system under which all state agencies will eventually operate. The current license fee structure remains in effect through 2013.
While the proposal was unveiled last month by Cuomo as his “New York Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative,” a rollback of sporting license fees had long been discussed by the Conservation Fund Advisory Board.

The CFAB had been frustrated by spending limits placed on the fund by the state budget office, which allowed the fund to balloon to a surplus of over $40 million.

The rollback and license restructuring comes just three years after a sporting license fee increase.

“The (board) is pleased that the governor’s office and Legislature moved forward with the proposed hunting and fishing license restructuring,” said CFAB chairman Jason Kemper as lawmakers prepared to put the finishing touches on the state budget last week. “The sporting community looks forward to working with them in the future to address other issues that impact hunters, anglers and trappers.”

The proposal:

  • reduces the number of license types, primarily by eliminating the various combination licenses (Sportsman, Super Sportsman, Trapper Super Sportsman and Conservation Legacy). The plan ensures that purchasing the same individual licenses won’t cost any more than the combination license, and in most cases less.
  • reduces several license fees, notably those for nonresidents (see chart).
  • changes the license year from the current Oct. 1-Sept. 30 to Sept. 1-Aug. 31. That move was made to reduce confusion and increase hunting opportunities for species that open during September, such as squirrels, Canada geese and, in the Northern Zone, black bear.

That proposal will impact Northern Zone hunters most, since they are currently allowed to use leftover tags when the archery deer season opens Sept. 27.

  • make fishing licenses valid for one year from the date of purchase. Currently, fishing licenses are valid from Oct. 1-Sept. 30, no matter when they’re purchased by anglers.
  • retains a separate trapping license. Cuomo’s initial plan had rolled trapping privileges into the regular hunting license, provided the licensee was a certified trapper. The trapping community had objected to that plan, fearing they would lose their voice in management decisions without a separate trapping license.

The plan carries a $20 trapping license, down from the current $21 for resident trappers.

  • a hunting license will include both small- and big-game privileges; currently they are separate licenses. The license will include a antlered deer tag and a bear tag for all license buyers, including nonresidents.

Currently, out-of-state hunters need to buy a separate bear tag for $50.

  • the regular hunting license will serve as a “base license” for bowhunting and muzzleloading for both residents and nonresidents. Currently, bowhunting and muzzleloading are stand-alone license options for nonresidents. In essence, bowhunters and muzzleloader hunters must also possess a regular hunting license.
  • repeals the “sunset” for the free marine recreational registry and continues that free sign-up in lieu of any saltwater license. Cuomo had previously repealed the $10 saltwater license in favor of the free registry, a move roundly criticized by the freshwater angling community.

Marine fishing registrations, too, will be valid for one year from the date of registration, instead of the calendar year setup.

There will be no changes to the state’s mentoring program for youth hunters, or to carcass tags associated with resident hunting licenses.

Officials said the plan will keep the Conservation Fund solvent “for at least five years” – through fiscal 2018-19 at current and projected levels of spending to fund fish and wildlife programs.

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