MINNESOTA LEGISLATURE: Increase in hunting, fishing license fees still alive
The Minnesota House of Representatives didn't include an increase in the price of hunting and fishing licenses in the game and fish policy bill it passed last week, but a key Senate lawmaker said he remains optimistic a fee hike will pass the Legislature.
"The people who are paying, they're coming forward (in support), and that doesn't happen very often," Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said Wednesday afternoon during a stop at the Herald.
Ingebrigtsen chairs the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is seeking to raise the price of hunting and fishing licenses to replenish its Game and Fish Fund, which is projected to go into the red by June 2013 without additional money. Funded primarily by hunting and fishing license dollars, the fund pays for fisheries, wildlife and enforcement programs.
The proposal has broad support from hunting and fishing groups, and people who've testified in favor of the increase include Bud Grant, the former Minnesota Vikings coach who's also an avid hunter and fisherman.
The DNR hasn't raised the price of hunting and fishing licenses since 2001.
"It's time," Ingebrigtsen said.
Raising the price of the licenses requires legislative approval, and the DNR has requested a hike that would see resident fishing licenses go from $17 to $24, while deer licenses would increase from $26 to $30.
The DNR plan would increase annual funding to the Game and Fish Fund by $14 million.
Ingebrigtsen has authored language in the Senate version of the game and fish bill that would include more modest fee increases and boost the fund by $11 million annually. Resident fishing licenses would increase to $22 instead of the $24 the DNR is requesting.
"I think that's reasonable right now," he said. "I think it's a good compromise."
Ingebrigtsen said the full Senate will take up its version of the game and fish bill Monday or Tuesday. He expects it to pass, and a House-Senate conference committee then would have to reconcile differences between the two bills and ultimately include the fee increase.
In the Senate, Ingebrigtsen said he plans to show photos of a gas pump and a Rapala fishing lure. Considering a gallon of gas costs upwards of $3.79 and a Rapala fishing lure $6 or more, a license fee increase isn't unreasonable, he said.
"If you don't want to hunt and fish, you don't pay," he said.
The game and fish bills also include a limited hunting and trapping season on gray wolves, which recently were removed from federal protection. Ingebrigtsen said the Legislature has proposed opening a wolf season that coincides with Minnesota's deer opener, while the DNR has proposed waiting until after deer season.
Both proposals call for a harvest of 400 wolves.
Minnesota has an estimated population of 3,000 wolves, nearly twice what is called for under federal recovery guidelines. Still, Ingebrigtsen said, the measure is contentious, and he's received emails opposing the season from as far away as Sweden, Norway and Germany.
"We take the same avenue the administration does," Ingebrigtsen said. "The DNR says we have to manage them. I think the DNR has a good number."
The House version of the bill is HF2171, and the Senate bill is SF1943.