As a native Minnesotan who owns land and pays outlandish property taxes in Minnesota, I have mixed feelings as a nonresident about the proposal to increase the price of hunting and fishing licenses in the state where I do a majority of my hunting and fishing.
But at the same time, I don’t view public land as a liability, and if paying a few more bucks for a hunting or fishing license produces maintained trails, boat accesses, well-managed fish and wildlife and quality experiences in the outdoors, I can live with spending a few more dollars for the experiences I enjoy and cherish.
I’m not sure how the average hunter and angler feels about the proposed license fee increase, but a coalition of more than 40 sportsmen’s and conservation groups today sent a letter to Minnesota state lawmakers supporting the proposed increase. They also asked lawmakers to restore historical funding for fish and wildlife management.
The Minnesota Conservation Federation and Minnesota Trout Unlimited prepared the letter, which was sent to House and Senate leaders and key committee members of both parties.
Here’s the letter of support:
We the undersigned are writing to seek your support of fishing and hunting license fee adjustments proposed by the Minnesota DNR. We make this request as advocates for more than 1.5 million licensed anglers, 600,000 hunters and countless additional Minnesotans who value our great outdoors. Additional revenue for fish, game and wildlife management activities is needed now in order to maintain our state’s high quality fishing, hunting, and trapping. This issue is important to sportsmen and sportswomen, conservationists, environmentalists and the general public.
The quality of fishing and hunting is good. Tourism is strong. Angling and hunting activities annually generate nearly $5.5 Billion in economic activity in the state, support 48,000 Minnesota jobs and collect $358 Million in state and local tax revenue. But sustaining this requires professional management of fish and wildlife and their habitats. Inflation and rising costs mean additional revenue is needed in the form of modest user fee increases and restoration of past levels of general fund support.
The DNR’s fish and wildlife management are paid for by sportsmen and sportswomen, through the sale of fishing, hunting and related licenses and stamps, as well as federal excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment purchases. However, the purchasing power of those fees has declined over time and the Game & Fish Fund, which receives license revenue and pays expenses, is projected to go negative in 2019. Since state law prohibits a Fund deficit, the DNR will have to cut into core programs beginning in 2018 by delaying or cancelling habitat and research projects, reducing fish stocking efforts, and reducing biological surveys needed for informed management decisions. Waiting to act until next year will be too late.
The current level of DNR management activities is less than the minimal amount needed to adequately manage our fish, game and wildlife populations and the habitat in our lakes, lands and rivers. Management activities cannot be reduced from current levels without dire consequences for the millions of Minnesotans who rely on these resources for their recreation and economic livelihood. As mentioned above, angling and hunting activities annually generate nearly $5.5 Billion in economic activity in the state, support 48,000 Minnesota jobs and collect $358 Million in state and local tax revenue. Reinvesting a small percentage of these general tax revenues to sustain this economic engine and preserve our cultural heritage of fishing, hunting and outdoor activity makes good sense.
The DNR Fish & Wildlife Division which manages the state’s fish and wildlife resources has received essentially no general fund appropriations since 2010. Prior to 2010 general funds were routinely appropriated. Between 2001 and 2010 (the years for which data is readily available) Legislative appropriations of general funds to the Fish & Wildlife Division averaged approximately $2.3 Million per year. Beginning in 2011 appropriations from the general fund dropped to near zero, aside from a 2015 appropriation to combat avian flu. This recent lack of financial support does not make sense when one considers the myriad benefits which all Minnesotans receive from sound management that produces healthy ecosystems and clean lakes and streams.
Our organizations and the many anglers and hunters we represent are supportive of the fee increases. However, fairness demands that a small percentage of the general fund revenue collected from anglers and hunters be used to help maintain and improve our natural resources. A general fund appropriation of $3 Million per year is both justified and overdue.
We urge the legislative committees and the House and Senate to include the proposed DNR license fee increases and a modest general fund appropriation in the environmental budget bill. Please feel free to contact John Lenczewski at 612-670-1629 or Gary Botzek at 651-283-4511 if you or your staff has any questions.
Thank you for your consideration of this important policy and funding issue in the State of Minnesota.
The following organizations:
Minnesota Trout Unlimited
Minnesota Conservation Federation
Minnesota B.A.S.S. Nation
Minnesota Deer Hunters Association*
Minnesota Waterfowl Association
Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance
Minnesota Division, Izaak Walton League
North Metro Muskies, Inc.
Fish & Wildlife Legislative Alliance
Minnesota Sharp-tailed Grouse Society
Anglers for Habitat
Bryon Sportsmen’s Club
Central Lakes Natural Resources Club
Twin Cities Chapter of Trout Unlimited
Rice Area Sportsmen’s Club
FM Walleye Unlimited, Inc. of Moorhead, MN
Hiawatha Chapter of Trout Unlimited
Chapter 33 Lake Superior Muskies, Inc.
United Northern Sportsmen
The Nature Conservancy
Leech Lake Association
Lake Superior Steelhead Association
Lake Hendricks Improvement Association
Southwest Minnesota Fishing Club
Brainerd Lakes Chapter of Muskies, Inc.
Jackson County Conservation League
Minnesota Back Country Hunters & Anglers
Balaton Sportsmen’s Club
Bemidji-Cass Lake Muskies Inc.
Lake of the Woods Rod and Gun Club
Waterdogs Fishing Club
Win-Cres Trout Unlimited
Citizens of Big Stone Lake
Arrowhead Fly Fishers
Traverse County Sportsman’s Club
Gitche Gumee Chapter of Trout Unlimited
Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
North Star Sportsmen’s Club of Walker
Crossroads Chapter 54 Muskies, Inc.
Arco Sportsmen’s Club
Round Lake Sportsman Club
Cottonwood Sportsman’s Club
*MDHA supports the fee increase, provided DNR deposits $17.50 of deer license dollars into dedicated deer accounts, including $16.00 into the Deer Management Account. The DNR has agreed to this approach.