Is it the cost? Or what it’s worth to you? These aren’t separate questions when it comes to maintaining the quality of our outdoor pursuits. So, what does it take to maintain, improve, and insure the quality hunting and fishing we have today and for the future? Over the last ten years budget cuts by the legislature and increasing inflation has eroded the DNR’s ability to put enough boots on the ground to manage the resources we all treasure.
The State’s Game and Fish Fund is headed in the wrong direction. We can’t afford to let our resources decline. We can’t afford to wait. On the Fish and Wildlife side, eighty (80) staff have been lost. Even with a license fee increase, those jobs may never be regained. On the Fisheries side, losing 50 positions has sharply affected services. Here are just a few examples of what has been lost or cutback.
Creel surveys have been cut back from about 30 lakes per year to 6 (leaving only the large lakes and not all of them are surveyed annually). Creel surveys quantify what anglers catch and harvest; this is an essential tool needed to evaluate regulations, allocate harvest, and manage the quality of fishing. Lake surveys were cut from over 700 per year to about 600 and stream surveys have gone down from over 200 to just over 100. These surveys are the basis of science based management, without them we are guessing. The longer they go between surveys the less valuable they are.
Cuts to watershed projects and planning efforts fell from over 20 per year to zero. The ability to work with local communities and partners isn’t like it was six years ago. Trout, catfish, and sturgeon stocking have been cut back. Without sufficient funds, walleye, and muskellunge will be next, along with office closures and hatcheries.
These cutbacks have already occurred, because license fees haven’t been raised in over a decade. Without an increase, services will further decline, as will the quality of our hunting and fishing experience. The DNR Wildlife Departments are experiencing similar constraints trying to manage and maintain the quality of 1.3 million acres of Wildlife Management Areas. Work with partners and private landowners on habitat is also suffering. More work is needed in prairie and shallow lake complexes. When you add it up, this will gradually result in a decline in the quality of fishing opportunities we have to offer in Minnesota. This will also put a 3.6 billion dollar industry and 55,000 jobs tied to excellent hunting and fishing at great risk.
The Hook and Bullet community has always stepped up to the plate and paid their way. Now we need your help to push a Game and Fish Fund License increase through the Legislature. Bills are pending in both the House and Senate; they need to hear from us. This isn’t about tax increases or budget woes. A fishing license is the least of my costs when it comes to hunting and fishing. For just a few dollars more, everyone in Minnesota benefits. For more information visit: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/heritage/index.html
Anglers for Habitat