December 3, 1997 in Nation/World

Sporting Licenses May Go Up Fish And Game Wants To Ask Legislature For Fee Increases

Ken Olsen The Associated Press Contributed To Thi Staff writer
 

Idaho hunting and fishing licenses and fees could rocket as much as 65 percent in an attempt to resuscitate the financially ailing state Fish and Game Department.

During its meeting in Boise on Thursday and Friday, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission will consider asking the 1998 Legislature for the increase.

“Fish and Game is in a position where we need a fee increase,” said Nancy Hanson, a hunter and a Fish and Game commissioner from Sandpoint. The size of the fee hike is up in the air, she said.

The commission discussed an increase earlier this year but dropped the plan because it felt it didn’t have sufficient time to make its case. At the urging of Gov. Phil Batt, the commission is going to take another run at requesting the first fee increases since 1982.

“If we wait a year, we will really be up against the wall,” Hanson said. “And if we have the governor’s support to get it through the Legislature, that’s a real plus.”

Ed Lehman of the Idaho Wildlife Council said his group will support an increase, although the amount proposed may be too steep for the average sportsman’s wallet.

“I’d support it,” Lehman said. “But it might be kind of strong.”

Some increase is necessary, he said. “You can’t run any business with 1997 expenses and 1982 revenue.

“They are laying off people and shutting down programs, and I don’t think that’s in the best interest of wildlife.”

Sportsmen’s dollars support 100 percent of the Fish and Game Department budget, either through license fees or taxes on firearms and fishing tackle, Hanson said. The department has been cutting programs, laying off employees and not replacing worn equipment.

A few more years without more revenue and the cuts will become much more traumatic, she said.

Nonresident fees have been increased to the point that they account for 64 percent of the revenue.

“We have reached the maximum we can charge them,” Hanson said.

A fee increase will mean already declining hunter numbers will likely fall further.

The alternative is “less conservation officers out, less biologists - just basically a skeleton crew ineffective to do anything,” Hanson said.

The Fish and Game annual budget is about $54 million a year. A 65 percent increase would generate about $7.6 million a year.

Batt has opposed waiting to increase the fees.

Lindsay Northern, a spokesman for the governor, said Batt explained his rationale for the fee increase in a private meeting with Fish and Game Director Steve Mealey a month ago. “Inflation has eaten away at the department’s ability to manage wildlife for the future and to serve sportsmen in the present,” Northern said of Batt’s position. “If the department is going to maintain the current level of service it provides to Idahoans, additional revenues will be required.”

Batt does not intend to aggressively lobby lawmakers for approval of the increase during the election-year session, Northern said. That’s because the governor has been accused in the past of trying to interfere with the politically independent commission. However, Batt will openly support the fee hike and likely make mention of the issue in his State of the State address next month.

Mealey told lawmakers last winter that the department’s financial situation had deteriorated to the point that either fees must be raised, or major cuts made in hunting, fishing and resource management programs.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story:

THE FEES

A resident hunting license costs $7.50. Deer tags are $10.50, and elk tags are an additional $16.50. A fishing license is $16.50. The most expensive license a combination license that provides fishing, hunting, elk, deer, bear, mountain lion, turkey, salmon, steelhead, archery, muzzleloading, upland game and waterfowl permits - is $78.

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Ken Olsen Staff writer

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This sidebar appeared with the story: THE FEES A resident hunting license costs $7.50. Deer tags are $10.50, and elk tags are an additional $16.50. A fishing license is $16.50. The most expensive license a combination license that provides fishing, hunting, elk, deer, bear, mountain lion, turkey, salmon, steelhead, archery, muzzleloading, upland game and waterfowl permits - is $78.

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Ken Olsen Staff writer The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email