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Outdoorsmen's view: Why we need fishing and hunting license fee increase

Minnesota's lakes and forests have been good to us. We've spent a good portion of our lives hunting and fishing here, and we've had our share of great experiences, whether it's hunting ruffed grouse up north or catching smallmouth in Rainy Lake o...

Minnesota's lakes and forests have been good to us. We've spent a good portion of our lives hunting and fishing here, and we've had our share of great experiences, whether it's hunting ruffed grouse up north or catching smallmouth in Rainy Lake or walleyes in Winnibigoshish.

We want our grandchildren -- and yours -- to enjoy what we've had. That is why we're asking that the Minnesota Legislature support the Department of Natural Resources' request for hunting and fishing license-fee increase.

It has been 10 years since the last general license increase, back when gas was $1.74. The DNR's proposal would increase a resident fishing license by $7, a resident small-game license by $3 and a resident deer license by $4. These increases are pretty small potatoes, considering a gallon of gas today is pushing $4.

A license is still a hunter's or angler's least expensive piece of equipment, and it is a pretty good bargain at that. Consider that taking your family to a movie is less than the cost of the proposed annual fishing license ($24) and going to a big-name concert or a major league baseball game is far more expensive than the proposed resident deer-hunting license ($30, up from $26).

The DNR is also proposing to add new licenses options. There are shorter-duration licenses for 90 days ($18) and three days ($12). There will also be a new three-year angling license costing $69. The agency is also proposing to increase nonresident licenses to make sure everyone pays their fair share.

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Minnesota has some blue-ribbon fishing and hunting opportunities. We have the best ruffed grouse hunting in the nation. Ditto for fishing for muskies and lake sturgeon. Our walleye fishing is also some of the best in recent memory. We have excellent stream trout fishing in southeast Minnesota and lake trout fishing in Lake Superior. Hunters can choose from ducks to pheasants, deer to bear, grouse to geese - all within a couple of hours from the Twin Cities. And we have good amounts of public land to go with those opportunities.

The DNR's Game and Fish Fund -- which is made up of license dollars -- is headed in the wrong direction. Inflation has eaten away at the fund's spending power and we need to accelerate the game and fish programs that will serve future generations of Minnesotans.

Without this modest fee increase, we all should be worried about a decrease in the core enforcement, fisheries and wildlife work that the DNR does. Wildlife needs the money to restore prairies and improve wildlife habitat on public lands and our fisheries workers need the money to make sure surveys get done.

We understand the Legislature is rightly careful about raising fees. But hunters and anglers have always been willing to pay their share of the management bill, as long as they know the dollars are being spent appropriately. Remember the federal duck stamp, conceived and passed during the depths of the Great Depression, was a result of concerned hunters taxing themselves to ensure a better future. We've always stepped up to the plate.

We now have citizen-lead groups, such as the Game and Fish Oversight Committee, making annual audits of the DNR's spending, so rest assured hunters and anglers are watching the store. These same groups have also endorsed the increases, resoundingly supporting the needed funds.

The Legislature needs to listen to hunters and anglers. In late March, a coalition of hunting, fishing and conservation groups sent a letter to lawmakers urging them to support the DNR's proposal. Right now, the proposal is stalled. We urge the Legislature to get moving on the proposal.

We don't want to see our hunting and fishing resources and our opportunities to hunt and fish decline on our watch. We deserve better, and our Legislators need to get that message.

Former Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Ron Schara is an award-winning outdoors communicator and host of the TV show "Minnesota Bound."

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