NEW ULM - The first change in a decade to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fishing and hunting license fees were presented Monday at the DNR Region 4 headquarters in New Ulm.
The presentation on the DNR Hunting and Fishing Heritage Initiative consisted of a panel of southern regional DNR officials detailing the proposal, followed by the panel fielding questions.
The presentation was a slide show of the DNR's current budget challenges and the steps it intends to take to fix the problems.
Currently, the DNR's Game and Fish Fund is not keeping its revenues in pace with its expenditures. The fund's revenues are being outpaced by $2.6 million a year. The fund is projected to reach a negative balance by 2015. By Minnesota law, the DNR is not allowed to "go into the red."
The presentation asserted that the problem exists because licensing fees have not kept pace with inflation. The basic costs of fishing and hunting licenses have remained the same for the last 10 years.
The DNR's proposed solution is to raise fishing and hunting license fees, add new license options and reduce fees for children 16 to 17 years of age. The proposed changes are projected to generate approximately $13 million for the DNR, with about $9 million generated in the first year.
The reduction in fees for children 16 to 17 is intended to create future license users by introducing a young people to hunting and fishing.
The presentation stated that the DNR did not come to the fee increases easily. Thus far, the DNR has cut its driving by 10 percent, left up to 100 position unfilled and consolidated field stations. However, the efforts were not enough to change the DNR's negative revenue trend.
After the presentation, the group opened up the meeting for questions.
One question was why Minnesota resident licenses were receiving a disproportional increase compared to out-of-state licenses.
Southern Regional Enforcement Officer Phil Meier Meier responded that it was because out-of-state licenses had previously had two increases in fees, and a further increase would drive away those hunters and anglers. Also, he said that out-of-state hunters and anglers tended to spend more money in Minnesota than residents because they purchased supplies when they arrived.
Another question was when the fee increases would go into effect if approved.
DNR Southern Regional Director Dennis Frederickson said that it would occur the year after its approval because of how legislative funding works. He added that because of the way the funding work, it was even more important the increase be passed as soon as possible.
The next step for the fee increases is a representative proposing them as a bill. So far, no one has authored a bill for the increases.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)