Camo at the Capitol: License Fee Restructuring

A Year in Review
Camo at the Capitol is a weekly blog by MUCC Legislative Manager, Matt Evans
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It’s mid-October and Michigan is right smack in the middle of hunting season with its most popular season, firearm deer, fast approaching.  This means many of you have already realized first-hand the changes that were made to the hunting, trapping and fishing licenses by the legislature last year.  And those of you who have not yet purchased your licenses, soon will.  Which is why now is the perfect time to revisit why MUCC and over 20 other conservation and agricultural organizations from across the state, all supported the new hunting, trapping and, fishing license restructuring that was signed into law just over a year ago.
HB 4668, the Michigan hunting, trapping and fishing license restructuring bill was signed into law last September by Governor Snyder and had the support of more than 20 conservation and agricultural organizations from across the state.  The goal of the bill was to simplify the licensing system while also providing funding to improve hunting, fishing and trapping opportunities, improve wildlife habitat, and increase education and outreach to hunters and non-hunters alike.
This bill was carefully crafted to provide clear outcomes for the sportsmen and women’s investment of more than $19 million (estimated for FY 2015) in additional funding to be deposited into the Constitutionally-protected Game and Fish Protection Fund.  Roughly $7 million is estimated to go towards fish and wildlife habitat projects, another $4.5 million for additional conservation officers (due to matching funds from the General Fund for the last two years), and more for fish hatchery maintenance, angler outreach, and improving the license retail sales system. MUCC and the Natural Resources Commission continue to work towards assuring transparency and accountability for how these funds are used.
While this bill was only signed into law a little over a year ago, we are already seeing the benefits of the increased monies on several fronts.  One of these being the amount of grant dollars that are available for fish and wildlife habitat improvements.  The Aquatic Habitat Grant Program began in 2013 and nearly $1.25 million will have been made available by the end of 2014.  Conversely, the Wildlife Habitat Grant Program announced earlier this month over $1 million in funding for 2015 projects.  Both of these grant programs provide money to organizations like MUCC and others throughout the state to develop or improve wildlife and aquatic habitat.
In addition to the habitat grants that are being funded by the fee restructuring, there is also a new marketing and outreach program created called the Michigan Wildlife Council funding through the extra $1 surcharge on the base hunting and fishing licenses.  This citizen-based council  and public education fund are modeled after a similar program in Colorado that came up with the famous “Hug a Hunter” campaign.  The Wildlife Council is tasked with designing a comprehensive, media-based public information program to promote the role that sportsmen and sportswomen play in conservation.
So when you go to your local shop to buy your hunting, fishing, or trapping license and you see that it’s a little more expensive, remember where the money is going.  It’s going to aquatic and wildlife habitat, to public outreach and education, and to more conservation officers in the field.  The sportsmen and  women of this state have always paid for conservation and this is just another example of your dollars going right back to conservation.

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