An interesting thing occurred in the ivory-tower office of your Division
of Fish and Wildlife last week. It is more likely that this turn of events
took place in the equally ivory-towered office of your Department of Natural
Resources, but this is not really important because for all practical purposes
they are one and the same:
"All for one and one for all" . . . and all for the most important
If you read this column occasionally, you may recall that the October
20 number discussed the fact the DFW/DNR would be seeking a modest hike
in hunting/fishing license fees almost before the last gigantic hike in
fees was realizing any additional funding.
That column indicated--if it didn't flat out say it--that this reporter
was much in favor of the earlier gigantic fee hikes, and the current proposed
modest hikes. As you may have guessed, this reporter has long believed
that "there is no such thing as a free lunch" in the business of managing
natural and wildlife resources. If we want to hunt and fish, we will have
to pay our freight.
This column also believes that once we have bought our ticket, we need
to have watchdogs to make sure our funding is used wisely and for the purposes
However, last week a loud "EUREKA" reverberated off the walls of the
hallowed DFW offices, and in the next breath our wildlife agency was telling
us they didn't really need that extra funding that the modest fee hikes
would put in the larder.
That e-mail message--though not verbatim--went to member of a fish and
wildlife advisory group, with a one-sentence rationalization that establishing
a point-of-sale (computerized) license setup was less expensive than anticipated.
This presumably means that they will not need the extra funding a modest
increase ($2 across the board) would bring in--at least not for now.
It is interesting that the point-of-sale issue was not mentioned when
DFW brass was trying to justify those proposed modest fee hikes. So the
DFW/DNR will not pursue that modest increase in hunting/fishing license
In that October 20 column, we did not tell all, probably at the time
because it did not seem important and would have lengthened the column.
Some newspapers do not lengthy columns. They eat up lots of space.
What I didn't tell you was that Governor Frank O'Bannon had put his
stamp of approval on the DFW/DNR plan to go for more money.
Nor did I write in that column that on (or about) October 1 I received
a call from a department head of the DFW inviting me (as an outdoor writer)
to an October 8 meeting in offices of the DFW. Purpose of the meeting,
the caller said, was to learn the opinions of outdoor writers on increases
in hunting/fishing license fees.
I informed the DFW caller that I would be on North Carolina's Outer
Banks on October 8 and would not be able to attend the meeting. However,
I told the caller that while I could not attend the meeting, he had my
proxy to voice whole-hearted support of the issue.
Soon after my return from my Outer Banks vacation--about October 12--I
called the DFW representative who had invited me to the meeting to inquire
how my fellow outdoors scribes had responded.
"Oh," I was told, the DFW felt it was proceeding too fast on license
fee hikes and decided not to have the meeting . . . the agency had decided
to take another look at the fiscal problems.
But I was told by several DFW representatives that the move to increase
license fees still was in the works and the plan was outlined in my October
At this point, the vast majority of conservationists and sportsmen of
the state do not know of this strange (180-degree) turn of events. But
when the word is out, these same conservationists and sportsmen will be
wondering if Governor Joe Kernan has quietly decided to try his luck in
the upcoming gubernatorial election, and does not care to have a license-fee
hike millstone for a necklace.
This reporter telephoned Governor Kernan's office Monday to ask if his
administration would support modest hikes in hunting/fishing license fees.
The closest we came to getting an answer was a voice-mail message, which
asked me to leave a message. I did just that, but have heard nothing further.
Here's the way that October 20 column summed up the situation:
"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 (DNR 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)."