A Crucial Win for Conservation Efforts in Massachusetts

Contact: Joseph Mullin, Southeastern States Coordinator

Highlights

  • On August 17, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife’s (MassWildlife) proposal for new, phased-in license fee increases, received its long-anticipated final stamp of approval.
  • The new license fees will take effect during the 2022 calendar license year, fortifying the financial security of MassWildlife going forward.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s (CSF) Joe Mullin, Assistant Manager, Northeastern States, testified in support of the proposal during its three public hearings and submitted a supplemental letter of support that highlighted the crucial role that sportsmen and women have in providing the vast majority of conservation funding in the United States through the American System of Conservation Funding.
  • Other efforts to contribute to the Division’s financial security include Governor Charlie Baker’s signing of the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) budget, which includes a line item for reimbursing the Fisheries and Game Fund for lost revenue due to discounted and free licenses, and legislation introduced by Massachusetts Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Senator Anne Gobi, Senate Bill 546, which codifies the aforementioned reimbursement method outlined within the FY22 budget.

Why it Matters: The approval of phased-in license fee increases breaks a 26-year streak in Massachusetts of not having any raises in license fee prices. The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) relies on these funds to continue offering the multitude of opportunities for the Bay State’s sportsmen and women. This welcome news will allow MassWildlife to increase its revenue stream and continue its efforts of balancing expenses with the many opportunities it offers sportsmen and women. Additionally, the inclusion of a line item in the state’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget that reimburses the Fisheries and Game Fund for lost revenue due to discounted and free licenses. This budgetary fix is only a temporary solution to what will hopefully be set in statute through Massachusetts Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Senator Anne Gobi’s Senate Bill 546.

The Bay State sporting community has reason to feel a sense of optimism going forward, as the final approval of the five-year phased-in license fee increases has been attained from Governor Charlie Baker’s Executive Office for Administration and Finance. The new license fees will go into effect during the 2022 calendar license year, ending a 26-year drought on any such increases in Massachusetts. This welcome news will afford the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife with the ability to maintain financial solvency while continuing its on-the-ground conservation efforts. Confirmation of this approval is a milestone in the state’s conservation legacy.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s Joe Mullin, Assistant Manager, Northeastern States, testified in support of the license fee increases during the three public hearings in June and submitted a letter that outlined the longstanding tradition that sportsmen and women have in rallying to support their respective state fish and wildlife agencies in furtherance of their conservation missions.

As was previously reported, the budget for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) provided a temporary solution to MassWildlife’s funding issue by requiring the state’s General Fund to annually reimburse the Inland Fisheries and Game Fund “for all lost revenue attributed to the issuance of discounted or free hunting and fishing licenses.” Currently, MassWildlife is not reimbursed for the roughly 27,000 free licenses that are given to residents that are 70+ years of age, though next year’s budget puts a short-term end to the loss of these funds. Revenue from sporting licenses is a crucial pillar to the American System of Conservation Funding. This fact is starkly recognized by Massachusetts Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Senator Anne Gobi, who introduced Senate Bill 546 – legislation that would statutorily mandate that the Inland Fisheries and Game Fund be reimbursed for the lost revenue going forward.

CSF congratulates MassWildlife on this landmark moment and looks forward to continued efforts towards shoring up greater financial benefits for the Division, which in turn safeguard increased access and opportunities for sportsmen and women across the state.

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