Contact: Joe Mullin, Assistant Manager, Northeastern States
On February 17, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) Director Mark Tisa came before the Fisheries and Wildlife Board to review a proposed increase in license fees. For the past 25 years, Massachusetts has not had an increase in its license fees, and it’s taking a significant toll on MassWildlife’s financial stability. The timing of this is critical, as the Division states, “Unless we act now, the Inland Fish and Game Fund is projected to be out of funds in three years (FY2025).”
Massachusetts sportsmen and women have a proud legacy of footing the bill for the state’s conservation work through the American System of Conservation Funding (System). A key component of this System is the sale of hunting and fishing licenses. Unfortunately, the price of licenses in Massachusetts has failed to keep up with inflation (67% in the past two-and-a-half decades), while the costs of doing business and delivering on-the-ground conservation benefits have increased. Further, a significant portion of the current hunting community will soon age into the senior category (over 70) which entitles them to free licenses in the Bay State. Not only will the state lose out on the license fees, but they will also lose the ability to leverage those funds against federal programs such as the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program which provides a 3:1 match. In essence, for every $10 lost in license fees the state potentially leaves another $30 on the table.
Massachusetts residents presently purchasing all required licenses, permits, and stamps to hunt turkey, pheasant, waterfowl, small game, bear, and deer (archery and muzzleloader), not including the Land Stamp fees, currently pay $47.70. This is nearly half the cost for the same licenses in any other New England state, with Rhode Island having the second-lowest at $86.00. Making the necessary adjustments to fund MassWildlife, while setting fees comparable to the region, and affording the Division the ability to continue pursuit of its mission is a crucial step toward the protection of the Bay State’s fish and wildlife resources and sporting opportunities.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation supports MassWildlife’s efforts to secure funding so that current and generations of hunters and anglers may enjoy the state’s sporting traditions.
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?