Hunting and Fishing License Bill Up in Committee

The "implementation bill" for the license fee restructuring and simplification has finally been introduced. House Bill 4668 was introduced two weeks ago by Rep. Jon Bumstead, chair of the House Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, and a committee hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, May 8 where they took testimony.
To recap, the House and Senate have approved the budget with money from a license fee increase incorporated into the plan. These appropriations bills (SB 188 and HB 4328) still must be approved by the opposite chamber and likely go to conference committee to work out the differences. The Governor put the deadline for this as June 1.
Next comes the details, which we have been waiting to see in print for 3 months now. HB 4668 incorporates a revised fee schedule, with some changes incorporated into it from what the Governor proposed back in February. This new proposal would raise approximately $19.7 million once fully implemented and includes a 5-year sunset, which allows us to evaluate the intended and unintended consequences and outcomes of this additional funding.
Among the major changes and additions are:
  • 24-hour Fishing license now $10, and 72-Hour for $30 (resident or non-resident)
  • Limited Small Game Non-resident (7-day)-$80 (Non-resident Base license ($150) not required for this unless other species will be hunted as well)
  • Waterfowl hunting license reinstated for $12 (includes entry to Managed Waterfowl Areas)
  • Reinstated the bear participation license (no kill tag) for $15
  • Free Survey Tags (for certain furbearing species)
  • Change in the Mentored Youth license from issuing a combination deer license to a single deer license as part of the license package.
  • Creation of a Combination Hunt and Fish License package, which would include a base license, combination deer license, and all-species fishing license, $75 for a resident, $265 for non-resident.
  • Creation of a $1 surcharge on base, fishing, and Combination Hunt and Fish licenses that would be reserved specifically for marketing, education, and outreach activities. This was modeled off of a Colorado program that has shown significant improvement in non-hunter's acceptance and support of hunting.
Our concerns include some items that were not retained in the new legislation, including:
  • Elimination of the voluntary $2 youth angler license for youth 10-16, which can be used to "count" youth as anglers for purposes of federal Dingell-Johnson funding—we have recently learned that only about 120 of these licenses were regularly sold annually and agree the elimination of this license makes sense;
  • Across the board discounts for youth ages 10-16  (Junior) hunting licenses. Junior hunters currently pay only $15 for a junior combination deer license, $7.50 for a junior fur harvesters, and $1 for junior small game. Under the new proposal, they have a discounted $5 base license, but then would pay full price for the additional tags. For small game, fur harvesters, and a combo deer licenses (those currently discounted) this amounts to a 255% increase (from $23.50 to $60).
We recommended adding a Combination Hunt and Fish Junior License for $30 (a 60% discount from an adult Combination Hunt and Fish license) and asked the DNR to consider the feasibility to allow juniors to purchase additional licenses at the senior price. This would strike a middle ground between the current and proposed license price for juniors and encourage families to continue their outdoor traditions promoted by the Mentored Youth Hunting Program.
However, the DNR states that making the junior discount match the senior discounted items would lose $1.2 million of the proposed funding increase and adds complication to the system. In doing some background research, we have learned that nearly every other state surrounding Michigan has junior discounted licenses. While the results of Responsive Management's (Mark Damian Duda) evaluation of hunter recruitment and retention programs indicates that cost does not rank as a leading factor in barriers to hunter recruitment (lack of time, mentors, and access rank much higher), it is mentioned.
What do you think?
Should we acknowledge that getting kids outdoors is at least as important as giving seniors their discount too? Does Michigan want to be a leader in making kids (or more accurately their parents) pay the full price of admission? Maybe everyone should pay even more than proposed because funding for natural resources is that critical.  If you are a parent, does this license fee increase impact your plans for hunting with your family?  Share your stories and thoughts below.

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