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South Dakota at boost in hunting, fishing fees

September 10, 2012 at 09:46 AM

The Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota wildlife officials are considering seeking an increase in hunting and fishing license fees because the agency’s costs have increased 18 percent since the fees were last raised in 2005, State Wildlife Director Tony Leif said.

Game, Fish and Parks Department officials are now preparing a budget request for next year. If they decide to seek a license fee increase, they will do so at the Oct. 4-5 meeting of the Game, Fish and Parks Commission, which oversees the department, Leif told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader ( ).

Strong license sales since the last fee increase have allowed the department to offset rising costs to this point, Leif said. But revenue has declined slightly each of the past two years, and a third dip is expected this year, he said.

Leif said the department took in $27.4 million from hunting and fishing license sales in 2009, but revenue is projected to fall to $26.3 million this year.

Commission Chairman Jeff Olson, of Rapid City, said he is not alarmed about a $1 million drop in revenue in an $80 million department budget. The Wildlife Division’s portion of the department budget is $48.5 million, with license sales accounting for more than 52 percent of revenue. Federal money adds another 33 percent, with the remaining nearly 15 percent coming from miscellaneous revenue and carryover funds from previous years.

Olson said any request to raise license fees would spark a debate among commission members on whether the department needs more money to build its reserves.

“At one point, we had leadership that thought we needed a rainy-day fund in case pheasants crashed. The other philosophy is the Legislature sees a big fund sitting there and wants to raid it,” Olson said.

Leif said officials are comparing the value of South Dakota licenses to other states, but the department’s goal is to take in enough money to pay for programs without discouraging participation in hunting and fishing. An analysis indicates that a fee increase would boost revenue but hurt participation, he said.

Officials also would have to decide whether any fee increase would be across the board or target high revenue categories, such as nonresident pheasant hunting licenses.

Adult residents now pay $51 for a combination fishing and small-game hunting license that includes pheasants. Nonresident hunters pay $114 for a small-game license that lets them shoot pheasants.

In 2002, the number of nonresident pheasant hunters in South Dakota exceeded residents for the first time. That trend has continued, with 95,077 nonresident pheasant hunters and 69,120 residents last year.

Olson said if department officials ask the commission to increase license fees across the board, he wants a portion of the new revenue used to pay conservation officers.


Information from: Argus Leader,

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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Gas is up, prices are going up for licenses and I am staying home.

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