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Out-of-state hunters balk at Idaho tags

October 23, 2009 at 10:14 AM

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Out-of-state hunters have balked at buying up nonresident deer and elk tags this year, citing the economy, a growing wolf population blamed for eating big game - and the 2009 Idaho Legislature’s move to slap them with fee increases.

“At this time we are not sold out and we’re seeing a lag,” Department of Fish and Game Director Cal Groen told the Spokesman-Review, of the slow deer and elk license sales to people from outside Idaho. “We have tags left over.”

Earlier this year, lawmakers balked at proposed fee increases for all hunters and anglers.

Instead, they passed a narrower alternative that targeted only out-of-staters.

That had been projected to raise an additional $2.5 million annually for the department to fund its ongoing activities, but revenue from tag sales is down about 9 percent, or about $1 million, below the same point last year, said Jim Lau, chief of the bureau of administration for Fish and Game.

According to a survey distributed to about 30,000 out-of-state hunters who have purchased Idaho tags in the past, the economy, wolves and tag prices were the top concerns about buying a tag this year. The state agency distributed the survey after seeing sales slump.

Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, voted against the fee increase and says her worst fears are being realized: Nonresidents who comprise about a third of the state’s hunters and normally account for 70 percent of the revenue from big-game tag sales feel singled out by higher license costs and are staying away.

“People just can’t afford it - it was just totally unfair to put it all on out-of-state hunters,” Broadsword said. “They put a lot of money into our economy when they come to our state to hunt, especially up in my district. They stay in the hotels sometimes, they eat in the restaurants, they buy their supplies from the stores, they rent cabins.”

This year, a nonresident deer tag costs $30 0, up from $256.75 last year; a nonresident elk tag now costs $415, up from $370.75; and a nonresident hunting-fishing license is $235, up from $198.

Fees for residents remained $18 for a deer tag, $29 for an elk tag and $31.75 for a combination license.

Fish and Game, which relies on fees, not state taxpayer funds, to run its programs, doesn’t plan to propose additional fee increases in 2010.

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