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November 27, 2012 9:25 am

Wyoming notebook: Don’t pile on resident fisherman

Written by Dave Bonner

By Wyoming law, the Game & Fish Department recommends hunting and fishing license fees, and the Legislature actually sets the fees.

As most sportsmen in Wyoming know, that process is under way ahead of the 2013 legislative session to establish fees for 2014. Historical practice has it that G&F proposes license fee adjustments every six years.  The last general license fee adjustment was in 2008.

Because the revenue from license fees (which fund about 90 percent of the G&F budget) must carry the department for six years, the increases at face value can be nothing short of whopping. Try 40, 50 and 60 percent, all the way up to an increase of 117 percent for resident bighorn sheep.

That’s why a proposed change in statute has appeal. The Legislature’s joint Travel, Recreation and Wildlife Committee has agreed to sponsor a bill in the coming session to put license fees on an indexing plan.  The base fee would be set this year, and then G&F would use a government index similar to the inflation-tracking Consumer Price Index to determine recommended increases or decreases in fees on an annual basis going forward.

The TRW committee voted to send the proposed license fee bill to the full Legislature as a committee bill.   That doesn’t mean anything is decided as far as the license fees themselves. In hunter terms, it’s open season on the fees when the Legislature meets.

For the most part, the G&F recommended license fees go to the Legislature as they were proposed. But there was one exception.

At least in round one, score a win for resident Wyoming fishermen.

The G&F had proposed an increase in the annual resident fishing license of 63 percent — from $22 to $36.  When you throw in the $15 fee for the annual conservation stamp, a resident would have been asked to put out $51 for fishing privileges.

That 63 percent increase for a resident fishing license would have raised an additional million dollars in annual license revenue to G&F if the same number of residents (72,000) purchased a fishing license at the higher price. The resident fishing license is the most popular license sold by Wyoming G&F, by the way.

How much does G&F propose to raise non-resident fishing licenses?  Not a dime.

The G&F proposal is to keep non-resident annual fishing licenses at $90, because there is a fear that the number of non-resident licenses sold (11,400) would go down if the price were increased.

The question becomes: Who are you trying to protect? It isn’t the resident fisherman.

I am willing to accept the reality of fee adjustments from time to time to maintain the level of services as the cost of those services moves ever higher. But in this case the cost should not fall so heavily on residents.

The TRW committee saw it the same way. The proposed price for a resident fishing license in the bill was reduced to $30, still a 36 percent increase from the present $22.

Next stop: the full Legislature.

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