State proposes hunting, fishing license increases
by ALLEN THOMAS
The Vancouver Columbian
State wildlife officials have drafted a blueprint for the first across-the-board increase in hunting and fishing license fees in 14 years.
A resident freshwater fishing license would jump from $26 to $29.50 and a combination freshwater-saltwater-shellfish resident license from $48.20 to $54.25. An elk license would increase from $45.20 to $57, while a deer license would decrease from $45.20 to $44.90.
While most licenses would cost more, fees for youths, seniors and disabled veterans would decrease.
Increases in commercial fishing fees also are proposed.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is facing a $10 million to $20 million shortfall in state general fund money plus about a $10 million reduction in the state wildlife account, which mostly comes from license revenue, in the 2011-2013 budget cycle.
Phil Anderson, department director, said cuts might include 20 wildlife enforcement jobs, closure of seven to 11 fish hatcheries, elimination of steelhead fishing in Puget Sound tributaries and closure of some of the agency's 700 public access areas.
Anderson is making appearances around the state explaining the potential license increases and seeking reaction. New license fees require action by the state Legislature.
"We've got to have relatively broad-base support or the Legislature isn't going to buy it and we're going to be faced with a whole bunch of cuts," Anderson told the Columbia River recreational and commercial advisory groups in Vancouver recently.
The department is looking at a variety of ways to increase revenue to maintain its programs status quo, he said.
Other revenue measures:
? Switching the money from saltwater fishing, shellfish and razor clam licenses from the general fund (where it can be used for any purpose) to the state wildlife account. That would help to the tune of $3 million a biennium.
? Switching commercial license fees from the general fund to the department. That would add about $2 million.
? Adding a commercial fishing license "administrative fee'' of either $70 or $105 per license.
? Charging a fee for Hydraulics Permit Approvals, the environmental review required to work in state waterways. The fee would provide $3.3 million.
? Creating an "Explore Washington Pass'' with the state Department of Natural Resources.
The pass would be required to use the 5 million acres of lands managed by the departments of Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources.
Anderson said the pass would cost $5 for hunting or fishing license buyers and $40 for others age 18 and older.
State lawmakers early this year approved a 10-percent surcharge on hunting and fishing license fees, but that ends on June 30, 2011.