Hunters, fishermen may pay more for licenses after Senate OKs bill

Published 11:43 am Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The outdoors groups that angled for higher hunting and fishing license fees could get its way after the Minnesota Senate voted Monday to raise the fees for the first time in 11 years.

The Senate passed the measure 36-30 in a larger game and fish policy bill, which stalled in the chamber last week. The bill now returns to the House, which passed it earlier this month without the fee increases. Gov. Mark Dayton has advocated for the fee increases.

Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, opposed the bill when it first came before the Senate but decided to vote in support of it Monday.

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“Those fees have not been raised in over 10 years,” he said. “It can make sure there are still wonderful spots to hunt and fish in the state of Minnesota.”

Rep. Rich Murray, R-Albert Lea, said he also approved of fee increases, as long as they weren’t so large that they limit people from the activities altogether.

“I don’t want to see it get out of hand so people can’t afford to hunt or fish,” he said.

Murray said he expects the bill to be heard in the House in the next couple days, where it will likely face heavy opposition.

“I think you’ve got a lot of people in the Legislature who don’t want to see the fees go up,” he said.

Under the bill, a one-year fishing license for an adult resident would increase from $17 to $22, and from $25 to $35 for a resident married couple. A deer hunting license for residents would be bumped from $26 to $30. Nonresident one-year adult licenses would rise from $39.50 to $44 for fishing and from $140 to $160 for deer hunting. Other fees would increase by similar amounts.

Bill sponsor Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said both parties should be able to support the increases, aimed at helping the state manage wildlife resources.

“When you go out to the lake and there’s 10 boats out there, I don’t think you’re going to be able to distinguish between Democrat and Republican,” Ingebrigtsen said.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources proposed the fee hikes last year, which took on a new urgency this year when the game and fish fund was projected to run out of money earlier than expected — by July 2013.

The game and fish fund manages healthy wildlife populations and enforces state hunting and fishing laws.

Ed Boggess, DNR director of fish and wildlife, said if the House does not approve the increases, cuts to fish stocking programs, wildlife surveys and facilities used by hunters and anglers could be made as early as this summer.

“We’ve already done a lot of belt-tightening and efficiencies, so it’s getting down to where there would be noticeable impacts to hunters and anglers,” Boggess said.

More than 60 outdoors groups support the fee increases, Ingebrigtsen said. About 50 hunters and anglers rallied in the Capitol rotunda Monday, carrying signs attached to the tops of fishing poles that demanded fees increases.

Bob McGillivray, a conservation real estate specialist from Minneapolis, said that he first went hunting with his grandfather when he was 2- or 3-years-old. Now, he said, he fears the pastime will be endangered for his own children.

“Without these fee increases, these resources are in serious jeopardy and my sons may not be able to enjoy the great outdoors in the way that I have,” said McGillivray, who donned a blaze-orange hunting cap.

The fee increases failed in the Senate last week. Ingebrigtsen tabled the bill, blaming the holdup on Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk’s objection to the bill’s elimination of a special conservation fishing license.

This time, Bakk supported the fee increases after the conservation fishing license was reinstated and after the Senate adopted his amendment that will divert some money from fee increases to school trust fund lands and wolf management programs.

The bill also establishes Minnesota’s first managed wolf hunting season, Boggess said.

Minnesota has nearly 3,000 wolves, which were removed from the endangered species list in January. Under the bill, wolves would be open for trapping as well as gun and bow hunting.


—The Associated Press contributed to this report.