A bill that would increase Minnesota’s hunting and fishing license fees was approved Monday in the Minnesota Senate, but a controversial proposal to move the fishing opener up a week was dropped.
That means the opener likely will remain May 12. But the House version of the bill moved it to May 5, so the issue must be resolved in a House-Senate conference committee.
The bill also calls for the state's first wolf-hunting season next fall. A proposal to delay a wolf hunting season for five years was defeated.
The House's game and fish bill, approved earlier, contains no hunting and fishing license fee increases, meaning that issue too will now go to the conference committee.
Under the bill authored by Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, individual fishing licenses, now $17, would increase to $22. A small game license, now $19, would jump to $22. And a $26 deer license would increase to $30. Nonresident hunting and fishing license fees also would be increased.
License fees haven’t been raised since 2001, and the state’s Game and Fish Fund could go into the red by July 2013. The DNR has sought the increases, saying without them the agency would be forced to make serious cuts to game and fish programs.
Minnesota angling legend Al Lindner told a Capitol rally Monday that hunting and fishing license fees must be increased if the state is to maintain the world-class fishing it now offers.
“I’ve fished all over the country, and you don’t understand how good it is here,’’ Lindner told as many as 75 people, many carrying signs supporting fee increases, who gathered in the Capitol Rotunda. “And it costs money to maintain that.’’
Addressing the reluctance of legislators to raise taxes, Lindner said: “It isn’t a tax, it’s a user fee.’’
Some 60 hunting, fishing and environmental groups support the fee increases.
“People want to raise the fees,’’ said Ingebrigtsen. Last week, he offered an amendment to a game and fish bill that would have raised the fees, but amendment failed, and the bill was tabled.
Ingebrigtsen said he has been working to build support for the fee increase.
Approval in the House is uncertain.
Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, who wore a “Raise hunting and fishing fees now!” sticker at Monday’s rally, said hunters and anglers who support fee increases need to contact their representatives.
“We have not gotten calls or e-mails from people (supporting the increases),’’ he said.
Asked whether the House is likely to support fee increases regardless of Senate approval of the idea, McNamara said: “It’s not a guarantee, absolutely not.’’