License increase kicks in March 1

Lansing — New fees for hunting, fishing, and off-road vehicle licenses will take effect March 1 as part of legislation passed last year that directs new revenue into improving habitat, hiring conservation officers and biologists, and an outreach campaign to educate the non-hunting public.

The new system reduces the number of different licenses by 80 percent by implementing a new “base” license system for hunting, and combining fishing licenses. New resident fishing licenses now cover all species for $26, $2 less than the cost of the all-species license it replaced. The limited fishing license option is eliminated.

A new $11 “base” hunting license for residents allows hunters to take small game and is required to purchase additional licenses for other species. Resident deer, both antlered and antlerless, will cost $20, while bear licenses will be $25. Fur harvester, and fall and spring turkey licenses, will be $15, and waterfowl licenses will be $12. Elk and resident wolf licenses will cost $100.

New ORV licenses for all places other than private property will cost $26.50, and an additional $10 if riders want to use state-designated trails.

The new system cuts the number of licenses available from more than 200 to 42, and is expected to generate roughly $18 million in the first full year, according to the DNR.

The fishing licenses and base hunting licenses include a $1 surcharge to fund an awareness campaign aimed at informing the non-hunting public about the virtues and role of hunting, fishing, and trapping in conservation.

“Some hunters think (the $1 surcharge) is about hunter retention and recruitment,” Amy Trotter, public resource manager for Michigan United Conservation Clubs, told Michigan Outdoor News. That’s not the case.

Trotter said the $1 surcharge, estimated to generate over $1 million for the education campaign, likely will improve retention and recruitment, but that’s not the primary focus.

“To us, it’s more about educating the non-hunting public … to get people to understand hunting is an important component in conservation,” she said.

The education component is critical, leaders of conservation and hunting groups agree, because anti-hunting forces such as the Humane Society of the United States and its Michigan front group Keep Michigan Wolves Protected are attempting to sway public opinion against hunting. The Washington, D.C.-based HSUS currently is working to put several anti-hunting proposals on Michigan’s 2014 ballot to repeal wolf hunting, and is spending heavily on advertising for its campaign.

Trotter said officials currently are working to assemble the Michigan Wildlife Council – the public body charged with executing the educational campaign – as called for in House Bill 4993, which was approved by the Legislature and governor in December. The Michigan Wildlife Council will include nine members: the DNR director or his designee, four people who have purchased hunting and fishing licenses for each of the past three years, one individual with a hunting- or fishing-related business, one person representing agricultural producers, a professional media or marketing person, and a person representing rural areas of the state that are substantially impacted by hunting and fishing, according to the bill.

All of the council members, with the exception of the DNR director or designee, are to be appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate. Once assembled, the council is expected to use the surcharge revenue to research and craft messages about the outdoors that resonate with the public, and to invest money in advertizing about how sportsmen contribute to sustainable, responsible natural resources management.

DNR officials recently announced they’re soliciting applications for more than $1.6 million in available habitat-improvement grants created with the new funding.

The DNR Wildlife Division also will use the new funds for additional research and habitat improvements for big game; efforts to double pheasant numbers; expanding the Hunter Access Program; updating and expanding waterfowl hunting opportunities; and boosting management efforts for grouse, woodcock, and turkeys.

Fisheries officials will use the additional money to boost technical assistance for improving stream habitat; address infrastructure issues to increase rearing capacity for Great Lakes muskies, walleyes, northern pike, and lake sturgeon; perform maintenance on egg-collection weirs and hatcheries; increase monitoring efforts of inland and near-shore waters; and increase education and outreach to new and existing anglers, according to the DNR website.

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