The Sportsman’s Corner: Public hearings in June on license fees

Published: 5/28/2021 11:21:17 AM
Modified: 5/28/2021 11:21:15 AM

The process to increase the fees for hunting and fishing licenses and permits has been ongoing as MassWildlife, for the first time since 1996, is proposing changes to hunting, freshwater fishing and trapping license fees. For nearly three years, the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board has been examining the agency’s finances. During that review, all facets of the budget’s income and expenses were looked at in detail and a complete review of fish and wildlife funding in other states was undertaken. The issues that precipitated the financial challenges are not unique to Massachusetts. The rise in the cost of doing business is universal and the decline of license sales is also taking place in all 50 states.

What is remarkable is that Massachusetts has been able to significantly increase the level of services and add popular programs over the period of 26 years without increasing fees. The progressive management of the agency by the Board, which has included cost savings through modernization and consolidation of popular programs like trout and pheasant stocking, construction of (in partnership with the MWRA) an aqueduct to bring cold water to the largest hatchery in Belchertown, which resulted in significant savings, and a number of other adjustments over the years have allowed fees to be unchanged while most states have had multiple increases.

At this time, MassWildlife is facing an immediate crisis. This has been created by lower income due to reduced license sales, coupled with an increase in the free licenses mandated by the legislature and it has created a “perfect storm” that demands immediate attention.

A series of information sessions were held to gather public input. It was clear that although a vast majority of respondents strongly approve of MassWildlife’s work in providing quality fish and wildlife resources to the residents of the Commonwealth, the size of the increase needed to bridge the gap was a serious concern, even though it just brought Massachusetts in line with the other New England states for similar services.

Public hearings

Last week, MassWildlife released a new license proposal that incorporates public input on the original February proposal. In the new proposal, most license fee increases will be phased in over five years, and the proposed increases for hunting permits and stamps are lower than originally proposed. Public hearings will be held on June 22, 23, and 24 on Zoom to provide the public an opportunity to comment on the new proposed changes.

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