Higher fishing, hunting fees could hurt seniors, lawmaker claims

By  Kyle Campbell
Fishing Lake St. Clair

Would an increase in fees prevent some seniors from experiencing moments like this? Photo: Lindsey Jene Scalera

Recently proposed increases to Michigan hunting and fishing fees could disproportionately hurts seniors, one legislator said, even for some who haven’t hunted or fished for years.

Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, said the array of possible changes to hunting and fishing licenses — including senior deer hunting licenses increasing from $6 to $8 on top of a $4 base fee — isn’t fair to his older constituents.

“I know everything is on the table here, but I’d hate to see retirees pay more for their licenses,” Dianda said. “I know there are people who are buying licenses that don’t go hunting any more, but still want to support the Department of Natural Resources” (DNR).

Dianda said some seniors in his district buy licenses to support the DNR so younger people can enjoy the amenities it provides.

AARP Michigan communication director Mark Hornbeck said though the organization hasn’t looked into the specifics of the proposal, opposes higher expenses for senior citizens.

“The whole ball of wax has us gravely concerned for seniors on fixed income,” Hornbeck said.

The proposal from Gov. Rick Snyder calls for the state to reduce the number of available types of licenses from 277 to 31, while increasing prices on some hunting and fishing licenses. It would result in an estimated $11.8 million more in 2014 and $18 million in 2015.

Under the proposal, seniors still would pay less than younger hunters and anglers for some licenses, but Dianda said any extra fees could be burdensome on retirees. “The way things are going, the way the economy is, we already have the cost of living increasing and it’s tough for those on fixed incomes.”

Terry Walsh, president of the Michigan Charter Boat Association, said the proposed increase for the one-day license from $7 to $15 for people at least 17 years old would adversely impact charter boats, particularly around the Saginaw Bay where much the business comes from families taking day trips.

Walsh, who owns Termar Charters near Au Gres, said he supports the DNR upping its prices to be competitive with other states, but such a steep increase for the 24-hour license likely will deter families from taking such trips.

“Most of my charters during the summer are families — either families from in state or out of state visiting — and they bring a lot of kids,” Walsh said. “If dad has to pay the full fee not just for the license but the gas and all the food and the lodging, and now he’s looking at an additional $15 for each person — that’s out of line. That simply should not be.”

DNR public information officer Ed Golder said the state is overdue for an increase in rates, something it hasn’t seen since 1996 because of difficult economic times during the past decade.

The additional funds would go toward hiring 41 conservation officers.

“The hope is that at the end of this, we have more feet in the forest, more waders in the water and more eyes in the field from people that care about our environment,” Golder said.

The last time the DNR called for a raise in rates on hunting and fishing licenses was in 2006, but the bill died in the

A new app from Michigan's DNR will make it easier for hunters to find this guy. Photo: recubeJim (Flickr)

Michigan hasn’t instituted a rates change in fishing and hunting licenses since 1996. Photo: recubeJim (Flickr)

Legislature.

Drew YoungeDyke, grassroots manager for the Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC), said a problem with the last proposed increase was that it wouldn’t be used for its originally expressed purpose.

MUCC is analyzing the most recent proposal, YoungeDyke said.

“We recognize the need for additional funding,” he said. “This could be a positive proposal, but we just want to make sure the funding is being used for the right purposes.”

Under the governors plan, out-of-staters would bear the brunt of the increases, with a new base fee of $150 for hunters and a $33 increase for all-species fishing licenses. Michigan residents would pay a $10 base fee for hunting.

The DNR predicts a 7 percent decline in sales if the increases take effect.

Golder said the changes also would provide opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to save money as small game, waterfowl and migratory bird hunting would be included in the base fee.

“We expect that there will be some dropoff for certain licenses because of what are in some cases pretty modest increases,” he said. “But we also think there might be some increases because there are some things that are less expensive.”

  • Tom M.

    Make the day license a 3 day license for $15 bucks that would make more sense to tourists. 60% of a year license plus tackle tax $45. Most people don’t go fishing for one day. $350. million dollar budget and can’t fix problems?

  • DaveII

    I could debate individual fee increases. I want all the fees to go to hinting, fishing, CO’s, etc. But come on, increasing the single day license from seven to fifteen dollars is going to significantly reduce customers who are going to pay hundreds of dollars for charter boat fees, tips, equipment, motels,etc. I saw another post that said the increase of a few bucks in the turkey license is going to force him to quit turkey hunting. Let’s see, let’s assume 8 hours of scouting, and 4 hours of hunting. Most do more than than I think. 12 hours of recreations for a little over a buck an hour. I wish movie tickets were priced that way. Two or three days of hunting and you are down to pennies a day. I also wish, probably without luck, the State General Fund would put in a little to cover folks who use our State resources and pay nothing. A harness fee for horses, a ski tag for cross country skiers. The DNR spends money to service those uses, but collects nothing.

  • Tom M.

    This plan forces non-salmon fisherman the majority to pay to stock salmon they don’t want $10 bucks more. Salmon fishermen smallest usergroup pay $3 bucks less from $28. to $25. I do not have a problem with some sort of increase, things cost money. However the DNR plan is to keep the alewives dominant, which destroys the natural ecosystem/fishery. Thus we are being forced to pay to protect invasive species.

  • Dave

    Don’t forget that 60% of the DNR funding used to come from the state general fund and the state land taxes were covered by the general funding. It was the Republican Governor John Engler’s hatred of the DNR hunters and fishermen that took the DNR state funding away down to 9% and half of that taken away for the land taxes. That left 4-1/2% state funding and all the rest of the funding to be covered by the state sportsmen license money and some Federal dollars. Adding the Republicans stealing of the NRTF money is a parallel topic.

    Michigan has more hunting and fishing diversity than any Midwest state not counting the most Great Lakes shorelines and fishing. Our licenses are also cheaper. Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, has nothing to complain about. One deer cut up to freezer venison for food more than compensates the the low cost of a senior license not counting as many hours of recreation as desired. The DNR is still receiving less funding than in the past.

  • Rob

    I also recognize the need for an increase, but the way they have it structured is very unbalanced, and very unfair to those of us that hunt deer and fish for most species except trout and salmon. Because of this new $10 base license, the cost of a deer license for me is going to go from $15 to $25. Similarly, the cost of a fishing license for me (as I do not fish for trout and salmon) is going from $15 to $25. Why are they picking on people that hunt and fish for certain species, while letting those that hunt for waterfowl and squirrels actually pay LESS!!?? If we are going to have an increase, at least make it fair to everyone……..I could live with a 15-20% increase in what I am currently paying, for example – but what they have proposed is NOT FAIR.

  • Harold

    Once again, Republicans are pushing for another tax increase. When will it end?

  • Tom M.

    By increasing costs, and not fixing the quality of the product, I believe they are low with thier 7% dropout rate. GM is a good example of doing just that they went bankrupt. Our natural resources are in serious decay, have been for a while. Overrun with invasive species, hard to find a happy deer hunter. If you could catch Perch as fast as we catch gobies, you would sell all the licenses you could print. There would be no need for an increase. These prices will decrease use and tourism, and the DNR plans do nothing to restore the quality of the fisheries, only degrade them further. You can’t print what people have already told me what they think of this plan.