New license fee structure: Not perfect, but close
Like the Alabama song “Close Enough to Perfect for Me,” the new sporting license fee structure that goes into effect on Feb. 1 is good news for sportsmen – especially nonresidents. From the standpoint of marketing New York’s outdoor resources, it makes great sense to use this as a foundation for attracting new users of the resource – both in our state and outside of its borders.
At the top of the list is the fact that the fishing license year will start up from the day you purchase it. This is an added value from the current way of doing business – at least the perception of it. Someone buying a fishing license on Feb. 1 will be able to use that same license until Jan. 31, 2015. It could very well result in more visits to the Empire State if that angler is a nonresident. Add in the fact that the nonresident annual license will be dropping from $70 to $50 and you have a winning combination. At least, that was the feeling of the people we talked to in Cleveland as we attended the Cleveland Outdoor Adventure Show at the I-X Center in mid-January.
Another positive move was dropping the daily nonresident fishing license from $15 to $10. While it won’t drive massive numbers to New York’s many waters, it could be a great incentive to have someone pick up a rod and reel while they are already visiting our state. We just need the ability to obtain a license to become easier. With a new licensing system in place thanks to a recent change in vendors, you’d think that the system would have been tweaked to correct previous problems and make things better.
From what I’ve seen so far, we’re still in the same predicament – it’s not easy to get a license. The reality is that some license-issuing agents are actually getting out of the business – it’s too cumbersome, it takes up too much time and the perceived value isn’t there. I spoke to a couple of town and village clerks recently who say it’s not worth it to them to offer this service. When everyone seems to be downsizing, it’s sometimes difficult to justify added staff time for issuing a license. In the bigger picture, though, someone buying a license – especially someone from out of state – is going to be eating food, buying gas and staying in someone’s accommodations locally, ramping up the tax base. This isn’t a service we can afford to lose.
I’ve said before, many states truly do “get it” when it comes to issuing a sporting license. In Florida, not only do they make it easy to obtain a license, they also keep connected with the person who bought it. My last visit to the Sunshine State saw me purchase a license while I was eating lunch – via a phone call. I received a number and an email that would serve as proof of my purchase should I ever be questioned. The entire process took five minutes. Since then, I receive periodic updates on fishing reports, articles and “red tide” alerts. Everyone wins. How many potential fishermen and women are we losing out on because of someone having the spontaneous urge to fish, only to find out that they would have to run over to a Super Wal-Mart to purchase a license – and even that’s not a guarantee.
The hunting end of things offers an even better deal … unless you are strictly a small game hunter focusing on waterfowl. There is no small game license anymore. That’s been lumped together with big game, including a bear tag. For residents, the cost is $22. For nonresidents, it’s $100 – a significant savings. An even bigger savings is realized if you are a big game hunter involving archery or muzzleloader. Both tags formerly went for $140. Now they are just $30 each. Will this attract new hunters? It should. If it doesn’t, what are we going to do about the decrease in funds being funneled into the Conservation Fund?
We need to take advantage of these license fee reductions in so many ways. The state’s Division of Tourism is beginning to recognize that fishing and hunting are important tools for attracting visitors to our state, but they need to incorporate these things into their promotional efforts a bit more.