"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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For Better Fish And Wildlife Programs. . .Pay The Freight 
Copyright © 2004 by Bill Scifres

At this late date most outdoor folks of Hoosierland are aware that the bill that would have created an inexpensive fishing license for senior citizens didn't get a smell of rotten legislative action.
But did you know why? It's a rather strange--but not really not so strange--story.
Nobody at the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) or its satellite Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) will admit any part of it, but a little bird (it may have been a mockingbird) told me that the failure of the natural resources and fish and wildlife agency to back the bill effectively killed it.
It is academic now, but as you know, HB 1073 would have created an inexpensive license to fish for senior citizens who, for several years have fished free--no license, no nothing . . . just go fish.
This is all well and good--something free for the golden-agers of which I am a member. 
It also is academic now that the failure of the legislature to create that very inexpensive license left the DFW roughly $1 million short in funding per year.
Here's they way the little bird spins the yarn:
When Governor Frank O'Bannon died unexpectedly last fall the DNR was on track to seeking modest hikes in hunting/fishing license fees. It was in the works and the late governor had approved it.
Also in the works was a plan to create the inexpensive seniors fishing license to get more federal funding, which is derived from excise taxes that all Hoosier outdoor persons pay on the paraphernalia they buy. This big pot--millions if not billions--is apportioned to state fish and wildlife agencies in accordance with the number of licenses sold.
When the DNR threw in the towel on its plans to hike hunting/fishing license fees, folks at the agency indicated (said flatly) that the move to establish an inexpensive fishing license for seniors would be continued.
But suddenly--just as the arrival of a substitute governor had come about--DNR backing for the inexpensive seniors fishing license waned.
However, the inexpensive fishing license for seniors concept (after approval of the Natural Resources Summer Study Committee), was introduced as HB 1073 by Rep. Bob Bischoff (D-Lawrenceburg). Rep. Bischoff, a friend of the DNR and the DFW on many important issues of the past, also is chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, to which such measures ordinarily would be referred.
Conservationists of the state had reason to believe the concept might become reality this session, having failed in several sessions past.
But HB 1073 was referred instead to the House Ways and Means Committee where it was not heard. 
If the bill were to eventually be adopted by the legislature, the Ways and Means Committee would have had to approve it. But there was little doubt that HB 1073 would have gained approval of the Bischoff panel, and with this kind of credentials it would have been more difficult for the Ways and Means committee to totally ignore it.
Rep. Bill Crawford, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, told me Monday afternoon that he did not hear the bill because he did not think a short session was the time to take up such a matter. He said it would be better to address the issue in a long session of the legislature, which would bring about a better understanding of the matter.
But at the time, Rep. Crawford said he did not feel that he could justify taking away the senior citizen's right to fish free.
In the meantime, if you need corroboration for the little bird's song, let me run this past you: After the DFW and DNR had said their reason for abandonment of the modest fee-hike ship was based on the fact that they could get along nicely without that extra funding (increased funding probably would have been in the neighborhood of $8-million per year), I was told by a DFW official that the plan for legislation on the inexpensive senior fishing license still was "damn the torpedoes . . . full speed ahead."
I also was told that it would be nice if I (an early backer of the concept) would write a letter to the DFW outlining my thinking on the importance of the matter.
I did not say I would--or wouldn't--write the letter. But I didn't. I didn't write the letter . . . and I won't . . . at least not until the DNR raises hunting/fishing license in accordance to need . . . not political skullduggery.
The Division of Fish and Wildlife sorely needs more funding for programs designed to make hunting and fishing better for all of us, including seniors.
I am sorry if this sounds like a broken record. But there is no such thing as a free lunch anymore, without regard to whether the guy behind the fishing pole or gun is a senior citizen or a middle-aged guy with a family. If we want better fish and wildlife programs, we must pay the freight.

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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