Measure to raise Minnesota hunting, fishing license fees remains in limbo

The fate of a measure to increase the price of hunting and fishing licenses remains in limbo in the Minnesota Legislature.

The Senate on Monday voted 36-30 to include a modest increase in hunting and fishing licenses in the Omnibus Game and Fish bill (HF2171), but the House on Tuesday refused to concur with the amendment.

The Omnibus Game and Fish Bill is a broad-based piece of legislation with numerous items pertaining to the outdoors.

Instead, Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, moved Tuesday that the speaker of the House appoint a conference committee of five members to work out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. The Senate would have to appoint a similar five-member committee.

It’s not clear who will serve on the respective conference committees, but the clock is ticking to implement the license-fee hike as legislators scramble to meet a self-imposed Monday deadline to wrap up the session. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Gov. Mark Dayton have requested the increase to bolster the Game and Fish Fund, which is projected to go into the red by June 2013 without an influx of additional money.

Funded primarily by hunting and fishing license dollars, the Game and Fish Fund pays for a variety of fish, wildlife and enforcement programs.

About 75 anglers gathered Monday in the Minnesota Capitol to demand legislators raise hunting and fishing license fees. Otherwise, they said, a state fund that helps habitat will go broke. (Photo by Don Davis, Forum Communications)

The irony in all of this is that groups speaking on behalf of hunters and anglers — the people who would have to bite the bullet, so to speak, on the fee hike — support raising the licenses. Monday, about 75 hunters and anglers gathered in the Capitol Rotunda in support of the fee hike proposal.

There hasn’t been a wide-scale increase in the price of hunting and fishing licenses since 2001, and the revenue generated from license sales hasn’t kept up with the rising cost of doing business for DNR fisheries, wildlife and enforcement personnel.

For a closer look at the Omnibus Game and Fish Bill, click here.

There’ll be a lot of scrambling to get something passed as the session winds down. What that something is remains to be seen. Stay tuned.

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