It’s too soon to say how the environment and natural resources budget bill Minnesota lawmakers passed Sunday will affect Department of Natural Resources fisheries and wildlife programs, but there’s certainly cause for optimism, a DNR fisheries manager says.
The bill, which includes small increases in the price of fishing and deer hunting licenses, awaits Gov. Mark Dayton’s signature.
When that will happen is uncertain, as the Legislature now is in special session that resulted because lawmakers hadn’t completed work before midnight Monday, when the regular session was required to end.
Dayton had recommended the license fee increases in his original budget proposal but neither the original House nor Senate versions of the legislation included the fee hikes. The DNR has said the fee hikes are necessary to prevent the Game and Fish Fund from going into the red in 2019.
Since that’s not permitted by law, significant cuts to DNR fish and wildlife programs would have resulted, agency officials said.
Henry Drewes, northwest region fisheries supervisor for the DNR in Bemidji, said the bill looks to be good news, but the full impact on various DNR accounts won’t be known until Dayton signs the legislation and DNR fiscal people put the fee increases into context.
“It appears to be good news,” Drewes said. “We just need the dust to settle.
“We’re still a week or two away from the ability to know what we’re going to be able to do with the results of that passage. From a week ago, it looks much more promising, but I don’t want to get overly excited until it’s signed by the governor and we have our spending bottom lines to know what we’re going to be able to do in the years ahead. But there’s cause for some optimism.”
Here’s a look at some of the license fees that would increase and how much they would increase. Providing Dayton signs the bill, the increases would take effect March 1, 2018:
- Three-year resident snowmobile registration: $105, up from $75.
- One-year nonresident snowmobile trail sticker: $50, up from $35.
- Resident deer license for firearms, archery and muzzleloader hunters 18 and older: $34, up from $30.
- Nonresident deer license for firearms, archery and muzzleloader hunters 18 and older: $180, up from $160.
- Resident annual fishing license 18 and older: $25, up from $22.
- Resident husband-wife annual fishing license: $40, up from $35.
- Resident 24-hour angling 18 and older: $12, up from $10.
- Resident 72-hour angling 18 and older: $14, up from $12.
- Nonresident annual angling: $46, up from $40.
- Nonresident seven-day angling: $38, up from $33.
- Nonresident 72-hour angling: $31, up from $27.
- Nonresident family license including dependents under 16: $63, up from $55.
- Nonresident 24-hour angling: $14, up from $12.
- Nonresident married couple 14-day license: $49, up from $43.
Drewes says he attributes the turnaround among lawmakers to support the fee increases to widespread support from conservation groups across the state and media coverage that made a good case for the fee hikes and why they’re necessary.
“We saw the support from our constituents,” Drewes said. “It had an effect.”
Besides the fee increases, the bill includes a provision that would allow muzzleloader hunters of all ages to use magnification scopes on their black-powder guns during the muzzleloader season. Currently, only hunters age 60 and older can use scopes on muzzleloaders.
Also of interest to deer hunters in northwest Minnesota is a provision that allows portable stands to be left in northwest Minnesota wildlife management areas from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31. The relaxed regulation basically covers an area north and west of a line from state Highway 1 to Warroad, Minn. Stands left overnight on WMAs will have to be identified with the owner’s name and address, driver’s license number or DNR license number.
Currently, stands can’t be left overnight on WMA lands.
Oh yeah, and if you want to wear blaze pink when you go hunting, feel free if the bill passes. Blaze orange likely will remain the standard for most hunters, though, I’m guessing.
To see the full text of the 145-page bill, click here.