Dayton signs bill to raise fishing, hunting fees

Boaters will have to take a course on invasive species to legally trailer their boats, a wolf hunting season will be held this fall and hunting and fishing license fees will be raised, under two bills signed Thursday by Gov. Mark Dayton.

Dayton signed the game and fish bill, increasing fees and setting the state’s first wolf season. The state’s hunting and fishing licenses haven’t been increased in 11 years, and the Department of Natural Resources said its game and fish fund would go into the red without increases.

“It was a long time coming,” said Bob Meier, DNR assistant commissioner. “Now we can ensure Minnesota remains a great state for hunting and fishing.”

Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, voted in favor of the bill when the Senate heard it. He said a wide variety of people got behind the bill.

“Many environmental groups know how important it is to maintain wildlife areas here in Minnesota,” Sparks said. “It puts a level playing field.”

Rep. Rich Murray, R-Albert Lea, also supported the bill. He said many members of sportsmen’s clubs had expressed how important the fee hike was.

Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, voted against the bill, saying many people had issues with the fee increases as well as other parts of the bill.

The bill was OK’d by the House on Saturday night on a 68-62 vote and by the Senate 34-28 a few hours later. It raises the cost of a fishing license, now $17, to $22. A small game license increases from $19 to $22, and a deer license increases from $26 to $30. It also directs 50 cents from deer licenses for wolf management.

The increases will go into effect March 1, 2013.

A proposal to open the fishing season a week earlier this season was dropped from the bill.

Controlling invasive species

A separate environmental policy bill will, among other things, make changes to help control the spread of aquatic invasive species like zebra mussels, which have been an increasing concern in many Minnesota lakes. Officials have been sharing ideas about more frequent and stringent boating inspections to control the spread.

“In the past our boating recreation messages were largely safety oriented, which is still important, but more than ever preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species has become a top DNR priority,” Col. Jim Konrad, DNR Enforcement Division director said in a news release. “We are urging boaters to take extra care when launching and loading watercraft to stop the spread of harmful aquatic invasive species in Minnesota’s waterways.”

The bill also aims to streamline and coordinate water management and water planning in Minnesota. The governor issued Executive Order 12-04, related to wetland management in Minnesota. Dayton issued the order to support and strengthen implementation of the state’s wetlands policy. The goal is to establish a process for stakeholders to assess and recommend action regarding how to maintain the state’s goal of “no net loss of wetland” — something state officials have been tossing Legacy funds toward for the past four years.

—McClatchy-Tribune Information Services contributed to this report.

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