For those who have not heard, license fees are increasing significantly this year - some by nearly 30 percent. I've attached the new fee schedule for your reading enjoyment. Sportsmen rarely gripe about these fees, as long as the money is dedicated to Department of Environmental Conservation-related programs; stocking, wildlife management, pheasant rearing and the like. The fee hikes are predicted to raise $14 million, which state lawmakers say will go directly into the conservation fund, raising it to $54 million.
Personally, I support the effort to separate fish and wildlife programs from the DEC and form a distinctively dedicated agency with its own funds generated by money from license fees, special sales taxes and appropriate fines.
This proposal is gaining momentum across the state, but has stalled in Albany where downstate lawmakers like to include way too much under the DEC umbrella - a lot of which has little benefit to sportsmen-related programs.
Unfortunately, that is most likely what will happen with the $14 million windfall - it will help pay for programs and employees that have little impact on the people generating the fees. We shall see.
Meanwhile, one of the most discouraging fee hikes to me is the one that impacts our senior citizens. Effective Oct. 1, the qualifying age for the $5 sportsman's license will go from 65 to 70. That means seniors ages 65-69 will have to pay $47 in October instead of $5. Other licenses like bowhunting and muzzleloading that were free will now cost our seniors $5.
Schroon Lake Town Clerk Patty Savarie had an excellent idea how to circumvent these increases. She's recommending those age 65-69 buy a lifetime sportsman's license before Oct. 1 for $50. The license is then honored for life, even if you move out of state, and includes doe permits, which will cost $10 under the new fee structure, even for those age 70 or older.