June 28, 2021

Attention Massachusetts Sportsmen and Women: MassWildlife Needs Your Support!

Contact: Joe Mullin, Assistant Manager, Northeastern States and States Program Assistant


Why it Matters: The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife’s (MassWildlife) ability to balance its books and remain financially solvent hinges on its ability to implement sporting license fees that account for inflation and the many variables that have changed since its last license fee increase almost 26 years ago (such as new hunting/fishing programs and the upkeep of recently purchased WMAs). According to MassWildlife, to put it simply, “Unless we act now, the Inland Fish and Game Fund is projected to be out of funds in three years (FY2025).” Adding to the fiscal strain, the Division is not reimbursed for the roughly 27,000 free licenses that are given to residents that are 70+ years old, though the leaders of the Massachusetts Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus have introduced legislation that would reconcile the Inland Fish and Game Fund for the loss of any such revenue. Sportsmen and women who enjoy the many opportunities that are made possible through MassWildlife’s efforts should fully support this phased-in license fee initiative.

In the early 20th century, America’s conservationists recognized that the unregulated harvest of some of America’s most iconic species such as elk, bison, and white-tailed deer jeopardized the future of these game populations. Hunters unified to enact rules and regulations governing the taking of wildlife, ultimately forming what has become our modern state fish and wildlife agencies. Additionally, their efforts led to the establishment of sporting license structures to fund these agencies – a trademark component of the American System of Conservation Funding. Through this “user pays – public benefits” structure, sportsmen and women have a tenured history of serving as the financial keystone for state fish and wildlife agencies. The need to increase license fees in Massachusetts offers another opportunity for the sporting community to rise to the occasion in support of its agency.

As was reported earlier this year, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) has been discussing the need for license fee increases with key in-state and national stakeholders in the sporting community. Massachusetts has not had an increase in its license fees in almost 26 years, meaning that the revenue stream has not grown while the Division’s expenses continue to balloon. For this reason, the Division worked with the Governor’s Executive Office of Administration and Finance to put together three public hearings on phased-in license fee increases.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s (CSF) Joe Mullin, Assistant Manager, Northeastern States, spoke in favor of these proposed increases during each public hearing, citing the historic role that sportsmen and women have played and continue to play in providing conservation funding, as well as highlighting the separation between regulatory and legislative authority in Massachusetts. Mullin spent time emphasizing that MassWildlife is not capable of authorizing Sunday hunting or the use of crossbows – which are squarely within the legislature’s jurisdiction – and that leveraging these arguments against the proposed license fee increases is misdirected. Overall, it was clear that most of those testifying was supportive of MassWildlife’s proposal.

CSF looks forward to continuing to support this priority issue alongside MassWildlife and will provide updates as they are made available.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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