An ad hoc coalition of hunting, fishing and conservation groups are banding together at the Legislature to push for higher outdoors license fees and other funding for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
A draft letter addressed to legislative leaders has been signed by Minnesota Trout Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, The Izaak Walton League and Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy along with more than 35 other sportsmen’s clubs and natural resources groups. Gary Botzek, executive director of the Minnesota Conservation Federation, said the petition will be delivered next week in time for DNR budget hearings in the House and Senate.
“The list is impressive and growing,’’ Botzek said of the petition. “We need to step in.’’
Botzek and John Lenczewski, executive director of Minnesota Trout Unlimited, are spearheading the drive. They also are members of a citizens’ oversight committee at DNR that tracks agency finances.
The letter advocates for full legislative approval of Gov. Mark Dayton’s DNR budget, a plan that would increase user fees by $36.8 million for the 2018-19 biennial budget period. A resident fishing license would increase from $22 to $25. A standard deer hunting license would increase from $30 to $34. Boat, snowmobile and ATV registration fees also would rise.
The petition also requests that $3 million a year go to the DNR’s Fish and Wildlife Division from the state general fund — an amount not included in Dayton’s budget. The letter argues that Fish & Wildlife’s work is vital to $5.5 billion a year in hunting and fishing activity.
So far missing from the petition is the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association — a group that supports fee increases but wants deer license revenue earmarked for deer management. The time to impress legislators is short, with the new biennium starting July 1.
George’s Minnesota Muskie Expo, now in its 21st year, runs Friday through Sunday at Gangelhoff Center on the campus of Concordia (St. Paul). Daily admission is $10, but children 12 and younger get in free. A three-day pass costs $17.
Also this weekend, starting at noon Friday, Howard Lake hunter Jim Wackler’s 31-point monster buck will be on display at the Outdoor News Deer and Turkey Classic. The hunting expo will be at Warner Coliseum on the State Fairgrounds. Cost is $12 for adults; $5 for youth ages 10-15; free for kids 9 and younger.