Details are skimpy at this time, but Department of Natural Resources
(DNR) officials are thinking in terms of another round of hikes in hunting/fishing
license fees almost before they can count the funding derived from the
Lest that sound sour-grapeish, let me point out that this reporter
was one who pointed out that the last round of fee hikes--steep as they
were-- would only slow the bill collectors.
However that is (or was), the thinking now involves only a modest hike
in fees (probably only a few bucks) for residents. It is needed to beef
up numbers of conservation officers, and maintain some programs of the
Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW).
It is not clear at this time whether the fee hikes would include non-resident
fees, but insiders tell me that fee schedules for non-residents will be
compared to those of surrounding states. This could be translated into
healthy fee increases for non-residents and modest increases for residents.
Here is the way the DNR brass say the process will go: This fall the
DNR will stage a series of public meetings at which Hoosier residents will
have an opportunity to voice their opinions.
Early next year--possibly in January--the DNR Commission will consider
more concrete proposals. Such proposals could be acted upon at that time
by the commission, or they could be up for approval at a later commission
Before the last round of fee hikes, hunting/fishing license fees had
not been increased for 14 years because of political implications--especially
in the last 10 to 15 years. The "no new taxes" decrees of the past few
administrations would not allow the legislature an opportunity to even
think about increasing hunting/fishing license fees. A close look at recent
history leaves little room for doubt that political bumbling painted us
into this fiscal corner.
Through much of this period fees were the baby of the Indiana General
Assembly. But in its 2001 session, the legislature adopted a one-sentence
law which gave the commission authority to set hunting/fishing/trapping
fees. That led to the last round of fee hikes which became effective on
January 1, 2002. That round of fee hikes boosted annual revenue from license
fees about $2-million per year (from about $13-million to about $15-million).
No framework for public meetings to offer public input is in place
at this time. Such meetings probably will be conducted in November or early
In another revenue matter, the DNR will propose a $3 fishing license
for senior citizens who have been allowed to fish free for many years.
This proposal, which also would change the age from 65 to 60 for those
wanting to buy a license to fish, will be presented to the DNR Summer Legislative
Study Committee at the last 2003 meeting of that panel on October 28 at
The Garrison at Fort Benjamin Harrison State Park. Time has not been set.
If the committee approves, a bill will be introduced in the coming
session of the legislature.
Similar bills have failed in the last two sessions of the legislature
even though the free fishing license for seniors is causing the DFW to
lose more than $1 million per year in federal funding.