January 16, 1998 in Nation/World

Fish And Game To Seek $6 Hike For Deer, Elk Tags Commission Says Revenue Would Cover Short-Term Needs

Associated Press

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will ask the Legislature to approve a $6 increase for all deer and elk hunting tags.

It is the first phase of a two-year plan to raise money for wildlife management.

The hike would raise about $1.4 million to pay for a new mandatory harvest reporting system for big game hunters, better monitoring of deer and elk herds and restoration of money cut from the Department of Fish and Game’s enforcement budget.

Commissioners have determined Fish and Game needs a total of about $7.6 million in new revenue to meet its long-term goals. And agency director Steve Mealey said this year’s request will include a clear message to legislators that they will be asked to authorize more fee increases in 1999.

Gov. Phil Batt has indicated he would support a moderate fee hike proposal.

“But at the same time, I have asked the commission to carefully review its operation to make sure no fat remains,” Batt said Wednesday. “I want to make sure any revenue from any increase will be used to manage wildlife and to maintain a strong, effective and professional organization.”

Some critics, including Idaho Wildlife Council President Don Clower, have criticized the strategy of seeking piecemeal fee increases while the agency solicits broad-based public support.

But commissioners determined some of their needs are more immediate than others, and Mealey said Fish and Game hopes to form a partnership with sportsmen and legislators in the coming months.

If lawmakers approve, the $6 across-the-board increase for both resident and nonresident deer and elk hunting tags would become effective July 1.

Mealey said the department believes the size of the increase will not result in any significant buyer resistance.

“It’s a flat-rate approach,” he said. “We thought it was the simplest and cleanest way to do it.”

Under the proposal, the price of resident deer tags would jump to $16.50 and elk tags to $22.50. Nonresident tags would rise to $232.50 for deer and $332.50 for elk.

xxxx SHORT-TERM NEEDS Last month, the Fish and Game Commission decided its short-term needs, to be financed by additional hunting tag money, include: $287,800 for a mandatory hunter report card system. $329,375 for deer and elk aerial surveys. $168,625 for temporary employees for check stations and surveys. $343,556 for four new enforcement technicians and their equipment. $73,000 for telephone surveys of deer and elk hunters. $50,000 for telephone surveys of hunters of all other species. $70,000 for contracted data analysis of the survey results. $75,000 in operating expenses for backcountry enforcement.

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