Lifetime Licenses in the Hoosier State

Contact: Nick Buggia, Manager, Upper Midwestern States

Highlights

  • House Bill 1099 would require the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to offer a lifetime hunting, trapping, and fishing license.
  • While many states offer lifetime licenses for sportsmen and women, it is important to understand the fiscal impact that a lifetime license may have on state fish and wildlife agencies through the American System of Conservation Funding.
  • State Fish and Wildlife Agencies should have the power to not only set license fees but determine what license to offer. As the professionals charged with managing our nation’s public trust fish and wildlife resources, they are uniquely qualified to make those determinations.

Why it matters: America, thanks to the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF) through which it is funded, benefits from the most successful conservation systems in the world. Together, efforts supported through this system have resulted in conservation success stories seen nowhere else in the world by allowing sportsmen and women to enjoy opportunities to utilize our cherished natural resources while the general public benefiting from that use.  Due to the reliance on the contributions of sportsmen and women through the ASCF, it is important that make every dollar count towards conservation of our natural resources and the sustainability of our outdoor pursuits.

On January 4, House Bill 1099 (HB 1099) was referred to the House Natural Resources Committee where it awaits a hearing. This bill would require, rather than allow the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to sell lifetime hunting, trapping, and fishing licenses.

On the surface, lifetime licenses appear to offer great options and are currently offered in several states. In fact, some argue that it could serve as a tool to help state agencies as they seek to recruit, retain, and reactivate (efforts known collectively as R3) sportsmen and women.  However, we have a responsibility to make sure the agency that serves our outdoor pursuits is well funded in order for us to be able to enjoy these pursuits in the future. To accomplish this, the decision to offer a lifetime license should be left to those best qualified to make such decisions, the state fish and wildlife management agency.

Through the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses help generate funding for the agencies to sustainably manage wildlife populations. CSF recently testified  in front of the Natural Resource Commission in favor of a license fee package granting the DNR the flexibility to raise fees on both public and commercial licenses. This flexibility will ensure that the DNR is on solid financial footing and has the resources necessary to meet federal match requirements needed to receive various federal grants. These monies provide a tremendous amount of conservation funding, resulting in numerous benefits for the people of Indiana.

Staffed with professional fish and wildlife managers, the DNR is best suited to make decisions that will impact their ability to manage the state’s fish and wildlife resources. Maintaining the DNR’s license authority, rather than placing it in statute, provides the DNR with the flexibility needed to best serve Indiana’s hunters, trappers, and anglers. A lifetime license may be a good thing for Indiana, but we, as sportsmen and women, need to make sure we are not causing the DNR to lose money. It is our responsibility as conservationists to make sure the DNR has the resources necessary to continue to manage our fish and wildlife populations sustainably and in perpetuity.

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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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