On Saturday the Department of Natural Resources' new hunting, fishing and ORV license structure and fees went into effect, leading to plenty of questions from the public regarding the changes and what it all means.
Whenever prices are raised on anything we buy on a regular basis - whether it's groceries, gas, or, as in this case, licenses - it is human nature to react with some initial consternation and to question why the prices went up. However, understanding the need and impetus for change can sometimes lead to a change of heart.
In Michigan, hunting, trapping, fishing and ORV license fees had not been raised by the state Legislature in more than 15 years. During that time, inflation did a number on the operating budgets of businesses, non-profits, households, you name it.
Considering the majority of the DNR's budget comes from license fees that had not increased to keep pace with inflation, the Department was facing real budgetary issues that meant vacant positions were left unfilled and desired habitat work and trail improvements simply could not be accomplished.
As a result, the sportsmen and women of Michigan approached the state Legislature last year and asked for licensing reforms - including increased fees for hunting, trapping, fishing and ORV licenses.
At that point, the DNR was asked by the Legislature and Governor Rick Snyder to produce a comprehensive license reform proposal. In doing so, DNR officials were able to whittle down the licensing system from more than 220 license types to 43 license categories - making the license buying process simpler and more efficient for our customers.
So what does the streamlined license system mean for you? For starters, all fishing licenses will now be good for all species (no more restricted license and salmon/ trout stamp) with an annual price of $26 for residents and $76 for non-residents. A 2014 license is required for all anglers beginning April 1.
The separate deer archery and firearm season licenses also no longer exist. In their place is a new single deer license ($20), good for any legal deer in the archery, firearm and muzzleloader seasons - potentially making hunting less expensive for multi-season hunters who intend to harvest just one deer. Hunters who would like the opportunity to harvest two deer may purchase the combination deer license or antlerless deer tags where available.
Another change all hunters will notice is the new "base license" ($11 for residents, $151 for non-residents). Required of all hunters before they can purchase other season-specific licenses, the base license includes small game hunting privileges, but does much more than that.
Unlike some licenses like deer and turkey, base license funds are not earmarked for management of one particular species, which means it will provide the Department a more flexible source of funding for additional conservation officers, wildlife management and habitat improvements. The base license also helps to spread the cost of these general wildlife management and conservation activities more equally across all hunters.
ORV riders will still purchase an ORV license to operate off of private property ($26.25), but a new trails permit ($10) will now be required for riding on state-designated trails, routes and scramble areas.
So what will these increased fees translate to in on-the-ground projects?
In 2014, the Wildlife and Fisheries divisions have already designated more than $1 million for habitat grants available to outside organizations and private landowners.
In the Upper Peninsula, Wildlife Division will be focused on enhancing winter deer habitat and food sources. Fisheries Division plans to expand the rearing and stocking capacity for many sought-after species, including walleye, Atlantic salmon and northern pike, in addition to working on habitat improvement projects.
The DNR's trails section will use additional ORV revenue to add more connector trails to communities - benefiting local economies - in addition to replacing aging infrastructure and improving trail signage.
These are only a few examples of how the additional license revenue will be used to benefit hunters, trappers, anglers and ORV riders. For a full list of all license prices and details on how the license revenue will be used, visit www.michigan.gov/dnr and click on "hunting and fishing license structure" under "In the Know."
Mixed bag for March:
Emergency fuelwood permits are being issued this winter at DNR field offices for $20. Permits allow the collection of five cords of dead and down wood from approved areas of state land. To obtain a permit, visit the DNR Operations Service Center in Baraga for assistance. Additional details can be found at www.michigan.gov/fuelwood.
Spring turkey license lottery results are now available online at www.michigan.gov/huntdrawings. Unsuccessful applicants may purchase leftover licenses over-the-counter beginning at 10 a.m. on March 10. All other hunters may purchase leftovers starting at 10 a.m. on March 17.
Muskie, pike and walleye seasons close March 15 until the fishing opener on May 15. Rabbit, hare, crow and opossum hunting seasons close on March 31; bobcats taken during the hunting season must be registered no later than March 11; coyote season remains open until April 15.
Debbie Munson Badini is the DNR's Deputy Public Information Officer. Have suggestions for future column topics or questions about natural resource management in the UP? Contact her by phone at 906-226-1352, via email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @MichiganDNR_UP.