By Brian Mozey
St. Paul — The Minnesota DNR unveiled its 2023 One Minnesota Budget on Tuesday with an overall investment of $287.4 million. The Legislature will need to approve the budget, which includes increases in fishing licenses, boat registrations, and state park stickers.
The agency split up the budget between four categories including: connect people to the outdoors, mitigate and adapt to climate change, manage natural resources proactively and address our operational needs. The fishing license fee increase falls within the third section and would increase resident and nonresident fishing licenses by 20% (a $5 hike for an individual license) and 30% respectively.
“Today is an exciting day for DNR,” said DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen. “The budget includes a combination and a balance of one-time investments… and then on-going support through a combination of fees and revenue generated through fees as well as general funds.”
Bob Meier, DNR assistant commissioner, called the budget one of the most comprehensive aimed at maintaining its services for years to come.
With the $17 billion surplus, Strommen said many of these budget items are one-time investments to take advantage of those dollars. The DNR says the fee increases for other licenses and passes will keep the agency solvent into the future.
Out of the $287.4 million, $142.6 million will be appropriated to connecting people to the outdoors. Last week, the “Get Out More” budget was recommended by Gov. Tim Walz with an investment of $118 million.
Other big budget items in this section include improving visitor services at state parks and recreation areas ($6.6 million) and improving water recreation experiences ($13.2 million). With both items, part of the money will come from general funds, but another part will be from increases of park permit fees and watercraft registration fees.
“What we wanted to do was make sure that we’re using that one-time opportunity in ways that make sense for those kinds of dollars by making one-time investments,” Strommen said. “As we know, one of the challenges is then making sure that we can maintain those investments over a longer period.
“…the decision to include some fee increases really is a recognition of we need to address ongoing funding and so we do that in this budget through a combination of general fund dollars and user fee related revenues.”
Strommen said the fees for many of these services haven’t been increased in years. Fishing licenses haven’t been changed since 2017 and the watercraft registration fees haven’t been changed since 2006.
Meier said the park permit fees would go from $7 to $10 for a daily pass and an increase of $10 (from $35 to $45) for annual passes. Additionally, state parks and trail license plates would increase by $10 (from $60 to $70).
The park increases will provide an additional $3 million each year for expanded operations and maintenance at state parks and recreation areas.
The watercraft fee increase will be based around the type of watercraft. These increases will invest $6.6 million annually to address needs for public water accesses. Here’s a basic breakdown of the increases based on the watercraft.
Small “pleasure craft” less than 17 feet would go from $18 to $36. Pleasure craft from 17 to 19 feet would more than double from $27 to $59 annually. Boats from 19 to less than 26 feet would see increases from $45 to $113. Larger boats would see similar increases. Non-motorized watercraft longer than 10 feet would go from $10.50 to $22, and saiboats up to 19 feet would go up from $10.50 to $23.
The second section of the budget is based around climate change and has an investment of $31.7 million. There are two budget items over $10 million each in this section with focuses on enhancing community forests with the Minnesota ReLeaf Program ($15.2 million) as well as improving the grasslands and wetlands to over 6,000 acres of public wildlife management areas ($10 million).
The third section of the budget focuses on managing natural resources with an investment of $18.3 million. There are a few items that are between $1-3 million with emphasizes on CWD, fishing, utility license fees, protecting water resources and broadband utility licensing.
The investment in fishing is $2.4 million and part of this money would come from an increase in fishing licenses. The budget calls for a 20% increase for Minnesota residents and a 30% increase for nonresidents. An annual individual angling license, which currently costs $25, would jump to $30. A nonresident license would increase 35% from $46 to $62.
Additionally, lifetime licenses and combination licenses that include one or more angling licenses will also increase. These increases will generate $7.2 million annually to cover structural deficit, operating increases as well as a $1.2 million annual new investment to have more surveys and assessments and fund five additional fisheries positions.
CWD would receive $1.4 million, while protecting and managing water resources will get $1.7 million. In the water resources section, there will be an increase in water-related fees to support this investment.
Also in this section, there’s an increase from $10.60 to $20 for aquatic invasive species surcharge to support the spread of AIS in Minnesota. This item is receiving $2.2 million in investments.
Finally, the last section is “addressing the operational needs for the DNR.” This section will have an investment of $94.7 million with $89.9 million going to maintaining the current service level of the DNR.
Another $3.1 million is earmarked for digital investments in modernizing the customer experience and having up-to-date online access for permits and licenses throughout the year.
“This is an exciting budget,” Strommen said. “These fundings supports really services that benefit Minnesota’s environment, our health and our economy.”
It will cost more to go fishing and boating in Minnesota under a DNR proposal to hike fees. The state Legislature will need to approve any increases.
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