The time is now to increase hunting and fishing license fees, says a coalition of Minnesota hunting, fishing and environmental groups, including several from the Northland.
Forty-eight of those groups — deer hunters, anglers and conservationists — have signed on to a letter dated Tuesday to legislative leaders, urging action this session to make incremental increases in license fees before the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has to begin cutting staff or programs.
“What’s happening is (the DNR) has been running a structural deficit of $3 million a year,” said John Lenczewski, executive director of Minnesota Trout Unlimited. “Sometime in 2019, (the Game and Fish Fund) is projected to go negative. By law, you cannot run a deficit. Starting next year, they’ll have to cut money spent on staff or fish stocking or other programs.”
Lenczewski also serves as chair of the DNR’s Game and Fish Fund Citizens Budgetary Oversight Committee, which reviews the DNR’s finances. License fees are the main source of funding for the DNR’s Game and Fish Fund.
Under the proposed increases, a deer hunting license would rise from $30 to $34. An annual fishing license would rise $3, from $22 to $25. Several other licenses are affected.
The DNR will need the money not only for its regular activities, but also to develop a new deer management plan now in the works and to combat chronic wasting disease in deer, said Gary Botzek, executive director of the Minnesota Conservation Federation.
“It’s time for the sportsmen to step forward and step up,” Botzek said. “The DNR needs this extra bump in hunting and fishing right now.”
“Even with the $3 bump, Minnesota’s fishing license is an incredible bargain for a year’s worth of quality fishing,” Lenczewski said. “That small increase costs less than a scoop of minnows or a bag of chips at the gas station.”
Groups that signed the letter to legislators included the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Minnesota Trout Unlimited, the Minnesota Conservation Federation and the Minnesota Division of the Izaak Walton League. Northland groups that signed on include Arrowhead Fly Fishers, Gitchee Gumee chapter of Trout Unlimited, Lake Superior Steelhead Association and the Lake Superior chapter of Muskies Inc.