Hunting, fishing license fees could increase to cover FWP shortfall


BOZEMAN, Mont. - A legislative study says an increase in license fees could help Fish, Wildlife and Parks with a projected budget shortfall.

FWP currently faces a more than $5 million shortfall starting in 2017.

The Environmental Quality Council is taking public comment on a bill that, if passed, would "generate enough money off licenses" to support FWP through 2021.

FWP has a list of possible solution including a fee increase of $8 for hunting and $3 for fishing licenses. The last price increase happened in 2005.

"We know that when we face that shortfall we're either going to have to raise license fees, make cuts to how we go about our day-to-day operations or a combination of both," said FWP spokesperson Andrea Jones.

NBC Montana asked why is a fee increase one solution. Nearly 400,000 anglers and 230,000 hunters purchase permits every year. The majority of funding for fish and wildlife management comes from the sales of fishing and hunting licenses.

Locals voiced their thoughts on the possible increase.

Bozeman Angler sales associate Conner Thomas fishes and hunts with his family all the time.

"I've been out on the water probably 30 to 40 days so far this year," said Thomas.

Like many Monatanans, Thomas has a fishing and hunting license. He says that he doesn't mind the possible increase on license fees.

"I'd say that increasing their budget, keeping all those programs, keeping people on board with the sportsmen paying that extra money to enjoy that, all we have to enjoy out here in Montana, I'd say it's worth it," said Thomas.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks says that while they are considering increasing fees for hunting and fishing it will be cheaper than fishing and hunting in other states.

NBC Montana compared fishing license fees to surrounding western states. Montana's is $18 a year. The only other state lower was North Dakota at $10 and even with the $3 increase, Montana would still be lower than the next nearest western state, Arizona, at 23 to 50.

Bozeman resident Maurice Mclellan fishes out at Cameron Bridge near Belgrade He fishes and hunts and says spending a little more on a license far surpasses the cost of buying his meat from the local grocery store.

"$30 for an elk to put meat in your freezer for two years is better than going to the store and buying a year's worth of beef," said Mclellan.

The interim legislative committee -- the Environmental Quality Council -- is taking comment on the the draft bill. The deadline is Saturday, but a decision won't be made until the 2015 legislative session starts in January.

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