Contact: Kent Keene, Assistant Manager, Lower Midwestern States and Agriculture Policy
Why it Matters: As reported earlier this year, the concept of a lifetime license available for youth represents an opportunity to begin investing in future generations of sportsmen and women. However, all efforts to remove recruitment barriers must also ensure that the future viability of the American System of Conservation Funding is protected. HB 2456 represents a unique attempt to strike this balance that, if successful, could serve as a model for other states.
Just before midnight on March 31, the Kansas House of Representatives voted 93-20 to adopt the Conference Committee Report for Kansas House Bill 2456 (HB 2456). This vote came shortly after the Senate voted unanimously in favor of adopting the report. As reported previously, HB 2456 was introduced by Kansas Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Representative Ken Corbet as a way to provide adults with an affordable opportunity to make an investment in the next generation of sportsmen and women.
After working with representatives from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP), HB 2456’s sponsors amended the bill to raise the prices of the license for ages 0-5 from $200 to $300 to minimize the loss of potential future revenue. This was particularly important in Kansas where the KDWP’s wildlife and fisheries efforts are funded solely by sportsmen and women through the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF). This version was passed by the House in February by a vote of 117-4. However, prior to its first unanimous passage out of the Senate, the legislation was amended to include a second license option for ages 6-12 at a price of $400.
Recognizing the risks that this additional age bracket posed for the ASCF, the House rejected the Senate’s amendments and sent the bill to Conference Committee where the final compromise was negotiated. In its final form, HB 2456 will require KDWP to offer a lifetime combination license for ages 0-5 at a price of $300 while offering a secondary option for ages 6-7 at a price of $500.
Because the effects of this bill on both hunter and angler recruitment and the ASCF are largely unknown, it is important to recognize this effort largely as an experiment. Given the recent boom in hunter and angler participation spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic, HB 2456 represents an attempt to capture this momentum and parlay it into an ongoing investment in the future of the activities that we all hold dear. Only time will tell if this effort will be successful, but the concept is certainly commendable.
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?