Fishing, hunting fee hikes regrettable, necessary

Although no one seemed to be happy about it, Gov. Rick Snyder Tuesday signed into law the first significant fee increases for hunting and fishing licenses in more than 15 years.

Flanked by officials with various outdoor groups and Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Snyder put the finishing touches on an effort that dates to the earliest days of his administration.

The Associated Press reported in detail what the fee hikes, which will take effect March 1, will look like. Included will be a new “base” hunting license costing $11 for in-state residents, with lower rates for youths and seniors. Out-of-state hunters will be charged $151.

AP further reporte that the base license will pay for hunting waterfowl, migratory birds and small game like rabbits. Separate additional fees still will be levied for hunting certain species, and some of those will increase. Tags for deer will rise from $15 to $20, and the bear license from $15 to $25.

In addition, in-state hunters and anglers will be able to buy a combination license that includes a base hunting license, two deer licenses and an all-species fishing license for $75, or $265 for a non-resident. Anglers will no longer choose between a restricted or all-species license.

All fishing licenses will be all-species. A 24-hour fishing license will increase from $7 to $10. The fee for a seasonal all-species license will drop from $28 to $25 for Michigan residents, but rise from $42 to $75 for out-of-state anglers. A $1 surcharge included in the cost of a base hunting license, combination license or all-species fishing license will be dedicated to marketing, education and outreach, AP reported

The fees, which generated roughly $49 million in the last budget year, are expected to bring in nearly $20 million more in revenue. The new state budget starting Oct. 1 includes funding to hire and train 30 new conservation officers.

The fees in part could help pay for another 16 officers, according to Snyder’s February budget proposal.

The Mining Journal historically has not supported tax and fee increases imposed by government. Private businesses are expected to live within their means and government should, too.

That said, these fee and license increases are the first substantial ones in nearly a generation. Plus, outdoor groups generally lined up in support.

It is our fervent hope and wish that state government administer these new funds wisely and for the betterment of all concerned.