Idaho hunters and anglers could be required to pay an additional $5 on top of a proposed 20 percent fee increase, according to legislation being crafted by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission and the department it oversees.
Commissioners met by teleconference Thursday and discussed the bill for about an hour in executive session. Following the closed session, Idaho Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore said the proposal centers on a $5 surcharge that would be placed on the sale of resident licenses and a $10 fee on nonresident licenses.
It would raise an estimated $2 million a year, half of which would go to the department’s depredation program. The other half would go toward improving access for hunters and anglers.
The portion of the fee going to the depredation program would be split again, with 50 percent going into a fund for compensating farmers and ranchers for crop damage caused by big game animals, and 50 percent toward prevention of such damage.
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Fish and Game Deputy Director Ed Schriever, who listened to Thursday’s call from the department’s Lewiston office, said the proposal also would include a provision doubling the cap on the account that funds crop damage payments from $750,000 to $1.5 million. The proposed legislation will be interwoven with the department’s Price Lock fee increase proposal that was rejected last month by Rep. Marcus Gibbs, chairman of the House Resources and Conservation Committee. At the time, Gibbs, R-Grace, said the commission needed to fix unspecified problems with the depredation program before he would allow a fee increase bill to be introduced.
The commission-backed fee increase proposal would raise resident hunting and fishing prices by anywhere from $1 to $6 and help the agency keep pace with inflation. Resident fees haven’t risen since 2005. The Price Lock feature exempts people who purchase licenses every year from paying the higher costs. However, the lock would not apply to the proposed $5 and $10 surcharges.
When the public portion of the meeting resumed, commissioners expressed pleasure with the blueprint.
“I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again — sportsmen are excited to pay more money. You don’t say that very often to your customers, but that is what we are hearing,” said commissioner Blake Fischer of Meridian. “To have this tool to be proactive and create access with these funds is really, really exciting. I think that is what sportsmen want to see. They want their money to go to more animals and more access, and that is what we are creating.”
Commissioners voted unanimously to go into executive session under the guise that proposed legislation is exempt from public disclosure. However, the state statute suggests that the exemption may only apply to proposed bills being developed by legislators. Deputy Attorney General Kathleen Trever said the commission and department are working with Gibbs on the legislation and thus are covered by the exemption.
Though half of the fee will go to address crop damage that is caused by the state’s huntable species of big game animals, people who only purchase fishing licenses also will be required to pay it. In response to possible objections from nonhunting anglers, the department intends to send more of its license revenue toward a fund dedicated to improving fishing in the state.