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License fee hikes may be needed to sustain DNR programs

Several new hunting and fishing licenses are proposed under the Hunting & Fishing Heritage Initiative. One would allow youth ages 16 and 17 to purchase a reduced rate license. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

Last Wednesday, a group of individuals with a vested interest in the outdoors gathered in the commons area of the Park Rapids Area High School to discuss the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Hunting and Fishing Heritage Initiative proposal.

The proposal encompasses an increase in certain license fees, a fee reduction in others, some new formats for hunting and fishing licenses and a dedication to manage and improve high quality outdoor experiences in Minnesota.

Park Rapids Area Fisheries Supervisor Doug Kingsley shared information about how state and federal money funds, and in certain cases doesn't fund, DNR responsibilities.

For instance, the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund through the Minnesota State Lottery focuses on DNR projects, but not on operations.

At the current rate of expenditures, DNR funds are projected to hit zero by 2014.

The DNR has already enacted efforts to reduce expenditures by driving less (a 10 percent reduction), using more fuel efficient vehicles, leaving field and Conservation Officer positions vacant, consolidating field stations, operating with technology and using more private contracts.

However, these reductions simply aren't enough to regain fiscal solvency for the agency. Fifty-five percent of the DNR's revenue is generated through hunting and fishing licenses and stamps.

Using careful research and calculations, the list of solutions address the long-term stability of the Game & Fish Fund, Fisheries and Wildlife expenditures balance, customer friendly structure and value, and the ability to maximize federal dollars.

Hunters and anglers have avoided a license fee increase for quite some time. The DNR has not increased license fees for hunting or fishing since 2001.

Even though Minnesota is ranked as a top 5 national angling destination, the current fee for a resident individual fishing license ranks as the 36th lowest compared to all other U.S. states.

Some of the proposed increases include individual license fees rising from $17 to $24, while an angling combination (husband & wife) license could adjust from $25 to $40.

In comparison, $40 is easily spent on a dinner for two. Yet the combination license allows the couple to fish together for an entire year.

A few unique licenses would include a 3 day resident license for $18 that doesn't require an additional trout stamp, a 90 day resident angling license ($18), a three-year individual angling license ($69) and an annual youth fishing license (16 & 17-year-olds) for $12.

A dark house spearing license for $18 wouldn't require an additional angling license, while youth could purchase the same license format for $9.

A "Super-Sport" license for individuals would offer angling, small game, deer, duck, pheasant and trout for $99. A husband and wife version includes angling for both spouses, 2 trout endorsements, individual small game, one deer tag, duck and pheasant endorsements for $125.

These proposed prices do not include the license agent fee for issuing a license.

For more information on the Hunting and Fishing Heritage Initiative and on additional license proposals, contact Doug Kingsley at 732-4153. Also, contact your legislator to provide feedback concerning the proposal.