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Sports

Executive's funding proposals could lead to lower hunting, fishing fees

Bob Frye
| Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011

Wanna cause a ruckus• Walk into your local sportsmen's club and say it's time for the price of hunting and fishing licenses to go up.

Just be sure your path to the exit isn't blocked.

Here in Pennsylvania — as is the case just about everywhere else, apparently — hunters and anglers often loathe the thought of paying more to hunt or fish. That's true even as they spend money almost willy-nilly otherwise.

According to Mark Damian Duda, founder or Responsive Management, a firm specializing in human dimensions research and the outdoors, the average angler spends $1,400 to $1,500 every year to pursue his sport. The average hunter spends $1,700 to $1,800. That includes money spent on everything from gas and lodging to lures, ammunition, bait and scopes.

The cost of a fishing license represents just 1 percent of that total, the cost of a hunting license 3 percent.

"But it's interesting because if you talk about raising someone's license fee by a couple of dollars, they'll scream even as they're buying a $300 fishing reel," Duda said.

That might not be an issue except that, nationwide, fish and wildlife conservation agencies are funded almost exclusively by license revenues. If license costs don't at least keep up with inflation, programs get cut and wildlife suffers.

The answer — at least in the eyes of John Arway, the executive director of the Fish and Boat Commission — is to come up with new revenue streams.

Speaking to commission board members last week in Harrisburg, Arway said he's got several ideas in mind. He wants to charge industry — namely the gas industry — for the permit review work the commission does at a cost of up to $400,000 annually. He wants the flexibility to raise license fees by smaller amounts every few years, rather than waiting periodically for relatively large bumps.

And, in a novel concept — he said he already has gotten interest from lawmakers — he wants the state, and the commission in particular, to be reimbursed for the water pulled from rivers for agriculture and industry, as is done in the West.

"It has property value. And it's Commonwealth property. We need to be compensated for that," Arway said.

If all of those concepts were approved, the time could come when the commission could lower license fees, he said.

Then, perhaps sportsmen wouldn't have so much to argue about.

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