By MOLLIE LISKIEWICZ
Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan got more boots on the ground, waders in the water and eyes in the field thanks to an extra $8 million earned from restructuring sales of hunting and fishing licenses.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) did away with restricted species fishing licenses and instead began offering all-species licenses for $26 last March. A change was also made to hunting licenses, requiring the purchase of an $11 base license for small game before additional licenses for other species can be purchased.
In just eight months, an additional $8 million was produced through the restructured license sales, said Ed Golder, the agency’s public information officer. The license revenue pays for many DNR efforts to manage natural resources.
“We needed some kind of change to the structure to increase revenue,” Golder said.
Michigan’s total license take was $58.4 million for 2014.
The new money will be put to use as soon as possible. Around $3 million has already gone toward habitat grants, Golder said. And more money will go toward hiring new biologists and conservation officers.
Outdoor enthusiasts like Molly Good appreciate the extra waders around.
“I’ve noticed that many of my friends, colleagues and coworkers like to recreationally fish, but don’t think to purchase licenses,” said Good, a graduate student in fisheries and wildlife at Michigan State University.
The presence of more conservation officers will help remind any forgetful anglers to purchase the necessary license or two, she said.
Reducing the types of licenses from more than 200 to a little more than 40 was a big change for Michigan, and not every angler and hunter was thrilled with it.
There was a definite shift in buying patterns, Golder said. The DNR expected a drop in the numbers of people buying licenses to be around 7 percent, but the drop was slightly less than expected.
The number of fishing licenses sold went down by 5.8 percent, but it’s hard to know if the decrease is related to price or due to a number of other factors including winter storms and a late spring, Golder said.
Non-resident annual license sales also took a hit, dropping by 41 percent. DNR Director Keith Creagh will discount them March 1 to $68 instead of $76, with the intention of re-engaging out-of-state anglers, Golder said.
The number of licenses sold to nonresidents was lower than expected which resulted in a lower revenue than expected. But the $8 million total extra gain has those losses already factored in.
Michigan United Conservation Clubs, the state’s largest coalition of outdoor groups, supported the license restructure, said Amy Trotter, the organization’s resource policy manager.
The group worked with the DNR on deciding where the additional money would go and how to report that information to keep anglers and hunters in the loop, she said.
In general, “the revenue wasn’t as high as was expected,” Trotter said. But they are working to figure out how to get the revenue that they predicted.
Mollie Liskiewicz writes for Great Lakes Echo.
Additional resources for CNS editors:
Department of Natural Resources hunting and fishing license fees: http://www.eregulations.com/michigan/fishing/license-items-fees.