Contact: Nick Buggia, Upper Midwestern States Manager
Why it matters: For more than a century, sportsmen and women have led the charge in the conservation of our nation’s fish and wildlife resources. Their efforts to implement wildlife management policies in the United States ultimately led to the development of our state fish and wildlife agencies, as well as the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), a “user pays – public benefits” structure that supports the efforts of many of these agencies. The ASCF is one of the most successful systems of conservation in the world and serves to showcase the dedication of sportsmen and women to financially support their state’s fish and wildlife agencies. When combined with the fair chaise ethic that states, “Fundamental to the harvest of game is the concept of supporting the conservation of natural resources,” modern hunting, fishing, and trapping provide the DNR with an important management tool through regulated harvest of individual animals in a manner that conserves, protects, and perpetuates the targeted population in a sustainable way.
On September 21, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s (CSF) Upper Midwestern States Manager Nick Buggia testified in front of the Indiana Natural Resources Commission (NRC) at their meeting held at Canyon Inn at McCormick’s Creek State Park. Buggia testified in support of establishing a license and fee price range, allowing the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) the flexibility needed to adjust license and fees as needed. Following a public comment period, members of the Commissions voted unanimously to pass the measure. To clarify, no license fees were increased at the meeting. The Commission established a fee range on a variety of licenses, including hunting and fishing licenses, which will allow the DNR to amend rates anywhere within that range.
State fish and wildlife agencies across this country are looking for ways to sustain the funding needed to provide adequate services. As an agency primarily funded through the American System of Conservation Funding, this modest increase to license and stamp fees represents an opportunity for the sporting community to step up once again and continue to serve as the primary source of funding for conservation. For over 15 years, fees have gone unadjusted, despite inflation, increasing salaries needed to recruit quality employees, and the need to meet federal match requirements for federal programs. The ability to increase fees at a relatively modest rate will ensure that the DNR can provide the necessary state match in order to take full advantage of federal Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Program funds available to the agency.
Commercial licenses are also included in this measure. Many of these licenses and permits have not received a fee increase since their establishment in the 80s and 90s. The revenue generated from the current commercial fees falls well short of the cost of processing the licenses. An increase in commercial license fees will allow for an upgrade to the current license purchases and management of the software system, resulting in a more efficient process that will save both time and money. This increased financial flexibility ensures the IN DNR has the financial resources necessary to carry out other important parts of their mission, including providing additional access and opportunities for all of Indiana’s citizens.
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?