House committee considering hunting, fishing, boating fee increases

Jan 18, 2013

A House committee is considering proposals to raise the cost for hunting, fishing and boat licenses.

Those fees have not been raised for years.

"We haven't kept pace with states around us," State Game and Fish director Terry Steinwand told the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "We've really become the bargain basement place to hunt and fish for non-residents."

The bill would raise the fees by 10 percent across the board.  Steinwand told the Committee his department has been dipping into reserve funds. But Steinwand says state law says that fund must have a $15-million  minimum – and he says the fund is now at that level.

"When I was putting the bill together, what I was looking at is to just stop that deficit spending," said Committee chairman and bill sponsor Rep. Todd Porter (R-Mandan). "In the good years, the fund should grow. In the tight years we're seeing now, we won't be in a deficit spending mode."

A number of people representing sportsman and wildlife groups told the committee the fees should be higher – and suggested increasing them by 20 percent.

"I'm not saying that 'the state is rich -- give me something," said Fargo businessman Mark Mazahari. "I'm coming to you saying, 'Take my money and do something good with it.' I have no problem paying the freight to enjoy it."

Mike McEnroe with the North Dakota Wildlife Federation says some of the money should be used for more game wardens in western North Dakota. He says the increased population from the oil boom has brought with it increased problems.

"Unauthorized camping, garbage and waste disposal in wildlife management areas, increased poaching and vandalism, more public use by an increasing population, and misrepresentation of being a resident when purchasing hunting and fishing licenses" are some of the problems McEnroe cited to the Committee. He suggested three new game wardens in western North Dakota, and one in eastern North Dakota.

The Committee has not yet taken action.