Big Changes to Hunting, Fishing Licenses?

  • Patrick Streit with a 10 pound male steelhead on the Pere Marquette River. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Streit)

If you like to hunt and fish, depending on what license you buy, you might have to pay more…

This is the Environment Report. I’m Rebecca Williams.

Governor Rick Snyder wants to make some big changes to the hunting, fishing and trapping license system in Michigan.

He talked about these changes when he unveiled his proposed 2014 budget. Right now, there are 227 different license categories. Those would shrink to just 31.

Ed Golder is a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. He says some licenses will cost more, but others will cost less. It’s expected that these changes will bring in $18 million more in revenue for the DNR in 2015.

“Conservation in Michigan is funded almost entirely by hunters and anglers. So that revenue is very important and we haven’t seen any kind of general revenue increase in hunting and fishing licenses since 1997.”

Golder says for the past decade, the DNR also has been getting less money from the state’s general fund and the agency has had to make big staff cuts.

Just 7 percent of the DNR’s proposed operating budget for 2014 comes from the state’s general fund. The DNR also gets federal matching money. But a large part of the DNR’s budget – about 20 to 25 percent – comes from hunting, trapping and fishing license fees.

Erin McDonough is the executive director of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs and she joins me now. What do you think of the changes the Governor wants to make to the license system?

McDonough: “We’re cautiously optimistic about what he’s looking at here. We hear from a lot of our members that simplification of the system is really important, that we have a really complicated license fee structure. Now, our members’ biggest concern is making sure that we understand how the increased dollars are going to go to promote on-the-ground work that supports sportsmen and women.”

RW: Have you gotten any pushback from your members about having to pay more for some licenses?

McDonough: “I mean, I think you can expect some people to not purchase a license because of an increase. I mean, especially because you’re looking at a lot of changes that have hit people in the state of Michigan during this difficult economic time. So, I think you’ll always run that risk.”

RW: So, these changes are supposed to bring in more money. How would you like to see it spent?

McDonough: “Well, we would really like to see a lot of this going to on-the-ground. We want to see habitat work being done both in fisheries and wildlife. You know, making sure that we’re putting the work, the habitat on the ground that’s going to provide healthy fish and game species, expanding hunter access, making sure that our state game areas which are in the southern part of the state are properly managed. Fish hatcheries, those are important; research is important as well.”

RW: The governor also proposed that $3.5 million from the general fund be used to train and support 25 new conservation officers. Why does the DNR need more of those?

McDonough: “So, right now, we do not even have one conservation officer in every county. Now, conservation officers do a lot more than just fish and game enforcement. They do trail enforcement, you know, ORV, snowmobiles, they’re checking in on the parks; they’re making sure that everything is safe for people in the state of Michigan to use. When you don’t have at least one person per county helping to both enforce the laws that are on the books and serve as that conduit for information, it really puts us at a disadvantage. That’s one of the number one comments that I get from people, is that we need improved enforcement. I mean, you can write every restrictive, prescriptive rule in the book, but if you don’t have any enforcement, how are you going to manage?”