The latest plan to increase revenue for Idaho Fish and Game has been introduced to the Legislature with a public hearing set for Friday.
Fish and Game has struggled for several years to get any fee increases through the Legislature, which has preferred that the department sell auction tags to raise money. The last bill introduced to raise prices was in 2015 and it stalled in committee.
[Coming March 8: The Idaho Statesman’s annual fishing guide]
However, the latest plan answers calls from the Legislature to increase the amount of money available to pay for the damage wildlife does to private land, called depredation. Depredation spiked this winter with heavy snowpack pushing elk, deer and pronghorn into farm land.
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House Bill 230, which will be considered by the House Resources and Conservation Committee at 1:30 p.m. Friday, combines Fish and Game’s earlier Price Lock proposal with a new fee that will provide additional funding for depredation claims and access efforts.
The fee would be $5 for adult resident hunters, anglers and trappers and $10 for nonresidents. The fee would be paid on a first annual license purchase of the year only. The fee is expected to raise $2 million per year for:
▪ $500,000 more funding to pay depredation claims. The compensation fund currently only has $300,000 per year available. Claimants receive 50 percent of the value of their claim up front and the rest only if there’s enough money available at the end of the fiscal year.
▪ $500,000 more funding to prevent crop and forage damage from big-game herds.
▪ $1 million to provide access to land from willing landowners for hunting and fishing.
Price Lock is a two-tiered pricing structure that would keep prices the same for current hunters and anglers but increase prices for newcomers and infrequent purchasers. Prices for resident licenses, tags and permits would increase by 20 percent in 2018 under the plan.
Anyone with a license, tag or permit in 2017 would be eligible for a “price lock” as long as they continue to make those purchases on an annual basis, for a minimum price lock of five years. Anyone purchasing licenses, tags or permits in 2018 without having made a purchase in 2017 would pay the higher prices.
More than 60 percent of hunters and anglers don’t renew their licenses each year, Fish and Game says. The hope is that the Price Lock program would entice more to renew annually and generate more revenue.
Resident prices haven’t increased since 2005 and non-resident fees haven’t increased since 2009. Fish and Game doesn’t receive general tax revenue. Price Lock would produce an estimated increase of $3 million per year for the department.