A new bill, Senate Bill 635, introduced by Senator Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba) was recently taken up for testimony in the Michigan Senate Natural Resources Committee. This bill would discount the license prices for former residents of Michigan who return to our state to hunt. This idea has been brought forward to MUCC's Annual Convention in various ways over the years, but each time has failed to receive the required 2/3 majority in order for our organization to support it. So although MUCC is not weighing into the current debate, it does bring out some interesting thoughts worthy of a statewide discussion.
A hunter poses with her first deer. With her are her father, grandfather and cousin – three generations of hunters. (Photo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, via Flickr)
The idea is modeled after Montana's “come home to hunt” legislation, which allows non-residents to hunt in their previous home state for a discounted rate. In Michigan currently, nonresidents pay a much higher amount for their base hunting and fishing licenses than residents. If this legislation were to pass, certain “qualified” nonresidents would be able to purchase hunting and fishing licenses at a 50% discounted rate.
These qualified nonresidents would not be just anyone visiting the state to hunt or fish for a vacation or trip, but would rather be people who used to live here or have close ties to the state who would be able to return to Michigan to enjoy our
world class hunting and fishing opportunities. The two ways to qualify for this discounted price are to either own land in the state, or to prove that you previously lived in the state of Michigan for at least 10 consecutive years and that you will be
accompanied by a family member who is a resident and a licensed hunter. This significantly limits who would be able to obtain this discounted rate, but there is currently no information on what percentage of nonresident hunting and fishing license purchasers would qualify for this discount so the potential revenue loss is unclear.
The DNR opposes the legislation in its current format, but suggested that there might be some opportunities for exploring this in concept. There are concerns about how or whether the license retailer from a big box store or your local bait shop would properly certify these qualified non residents. They discussed an application system directly to the DNR and then using the database of individuals who have previously purchased resident licenses in the past or those who took hunter safety in Michigan as possible means to qualify a (now) non-resident for this discount.
The other concern that was raised by the DNR is the potential loss in revenue for managing our natural resources. The revenue raised from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses goes to the Game and Fish Protection Fund which is used by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to regulate, manage, and protect our State’s fish and wildlife and the habitats on which they depend. A fiscal analysis looked into the worst case scenario and found that if all nonresident hunters and fisherman (who currently buy licenses) qualified, we could see a loss of around $4 million dollars. To put this in perspective, during the 2014-2015 season, the license sales generated around $75 millions dollars. Alternatively, if we see higher nonresident hunter and angler participation due to a reduced cost, that could definitely offset any revenue loss.
We would like to hear your thoughts on this legislation:
- Do you think that these proposed changes to our hunting and fishing license prices will cause a large of a loss of revenue?
- Will the decreased cost of license for those who qualify encourage more hunters and fisherman to participate and purchase licenses, offsetting any potential loss of revenue?
- Do you think people who are raised in Michigan and go away to school or for work should be able to return to the state to hunt and fish at a discounted rate?
- Do you have any concerns over the implementation of this type of discounted license?
Let us know what you think!