"Bayou Bill" Scifres
Dedicated to the conservation and enjoyment of Indiana's natural resources
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Increase in Hunting, Trapping, and Fishing License Fees Anticipated
Copyright © 2005 by Bill Scifres

The situation is a tad iffy at this point, but it appears that there are changes in the offing for the structure of licenses to hunt, trap, and fish.

Getting the situation into perspective is not an easy matter, but from this catbird seat it appears that changes could come in the next few months in prices of all hunting, trapping, fishing licenses, the sale of lifetime licenses; even earlier in the free fishing licenses senior citizens have enjoyed for several years.

You probably will recall that in 2002 the schedule of hunting/trapping/fishing licenses fees were hiked to what some observes called exorbitant levels. In reality, those hikes in fees were only a stopgap to fiscal problems that were sure to come for the Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) in the near future.

As you may have noticed in politicized Indiana such unpopular things as hikes in fees for anything (including fishing and hunting licenses) must please the governor. That aspect of state government can be blamed for getting the DFW into the fiscal bind that led to that recent round of hunt/trap/fish license hikes.

To shorten an otherwise long story, the late Governor Frank O’Bannon in the summer of 2003 exercised his “lame duck” situation by giving the Department of Natural Resources the green light to seek increases in the license fee structure. The DFW recruited support for license fee increases among the outdoor press of the state and all was merry as the proverbial marriage bell. However, Gov. O’Bannon did not live to finish his second term and when his replacement took over (and declared himself a candidate for election--he was not an elected governor--in the fall of 2004),  the situation took a 180-degree turn.

Suddenly--like flipping a noiseless light switch--DFW personnel busied themselves with pointing out that they had re-looked the fiscal situation and that extra funding for fish and wildlife programs was not really needed at that time. The plans for license-fee hikes had been going 40 miles per hour and had hit a sand bar.

There is reason to believe that the license fee hike program has been revived and soon will be taken to the Natural Resources Commission. That panel has the authority to set license fees.

There are, of course no details on how much or when the fee hikes can be expected, but a ballpark guess is that it could happen this year, and that we will be well forewarned of the proceedings.

Now, about the lifetime licenses and the establishment of an inexpensive license for seniors who fish.

Both of these issues were addressed in Senate Bill (SB) 447. 

The bill, as passed by the Senate, now awaits action in the House of Representatives. It provides for the abolition of the lifetime license, but that lifetime licenses now held by Hoosiers will be honored.

Originally, SB 447 also called for the establishment of a $3 annual fishing license for those 60 years old (and older). This concept has been kicking around for several years because the lack of issuing such licenses has been costing the DFW roughly $600,000 per year in federal matching funds.

This federal funding is derived from excise taxes collected on a wide variety of outdoor paraphernalia. It is doled out to state fish/wildlife agencies by the US Fish and Wildlife Service on a pro rata basis, depending upon how many licenses are sold. The sale of more licenses would bring more federal funding to the DFW. 

Unfortunately, because legislative matters involving fiscal concerns must originate in the House of Representatives, and gain the approval of the House Ways and Means Committee, SB 447 was stripped of the seniors fishing license language before passage.  

Conservationists, an supporters of the FW are hoping the seniors fishing license language will be amended back into SB 447 in the House Natural Resources Committee, and that the plan will gain the nod of the House Ways and Means Committee. But as legislative wheels turn slowly, we will have to wait and see about that.

ON DEER-PEN HUNTING--Although House Bill (HB) 1780, the highly controversial bill on “deer pen hunting,” died in the legislative shuffle last week, there now are fears among conservationists and the scientific community that its concept could, by some ‘friendly” hook or crook, be amended into a Senate bill now in the House.

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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