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Game and fish fund could lapse

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources operation is at risk unless a license increase occurs this year. Though the DNR performs many duties, one that most people immediately recognize is the positive impact of stocking fish, like this adult sized walleye. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

Last fall the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources held a public meeting in Park Rapids to discuss proposed increases in fishing and hunting license fees.

At that time, the prediction was that the Game & Fish Fund, which through license revenue and federal aid funds DNR operations, would run out in 2014. Through further research and analysis since then, it's known that the applicable funding would be depleted by July 2013. This means the DNR will need to make significant cuts that affect the quantity and quality of hunting, fishing and natural resources law enforcement unless the state Legislature approves license fee increases during the 2012 session. License fees haven't increased since 2001 and lower than more than half of the states in the U.S.

In other words, without a fishing and hunting license fee increase, in 17 months a huge portion of operating budget for the DNR will disappear.

According to the DNR, the situation has changed from last year for three reasons that total up to $7.6 million in less revenue. The 20-day state government shutdown in July 2011 cost the Game and Fish Fund about $2.2 million because fishing licenses could not be sold. In November 2011, state budget forecasters revised their fishing license revenue projections by $1.1 million. Finally, in late 2011, federal budget forecasters predicted a $4.3 million decline in revenue into Minnesota's Game and Fish Fund.

Some people might wonder about the Minnesota State Lottery and why the DNR's financial status isn't level due to the Lottery's commitment.

Plenty of people play the odds and that alone could possibly fund the DNR. But only 14 percent of the DNR's operating fund comes from gambling. The largest contributor to the DNR is fish and game license sales, which adds to 55 percent of their operating needs. 94 percent of Fisheries' work, 96 percent of Wildlife's work, and 60 percent of Enforcement work is funded by the Game & Fish Fund.

In terms of local DNR assistance in the Park Rapids area alone, there are numerous functions the agency performs in the best interest of anglers. For instance:

The Minnesota DNR Fisheries Area includes 1st through 11th Crow Wing lakes and most of the Crow Wing River, Fish Hook and Shell Rivers; and lakes like Potato, Fish Hook and Long; the Mantrap chain of lakes including Big and Little Sand, Upper and Lower Bottle lakes and Belle Taine; the Straight and Kabekona Rivers which are high quality brown and brook trout streams respectively, in addition to a total management sector of 108 lakes and 220 miles of streams.

Locally the DNR also operates a cool-water hatchery, four drainable rearing ponds and numerous natural rearing ponds. They stock roughly 6.2 million walleye fry into 45 different lakes and produce about 4,400 muskies each year. These are only a few of the many services the DNR provides.

Outdoors enthusiasts can help by contacting influential policy makers such as

Denny McNamara ( and Kurt Zellers ( as well as local government leaders.