Floyd Dropps of Crystal Falls speaks out about the license increase as the chairman of the Upper Peninsula Sportsman’s Alliance (UPSA) Fisheries Committee. Dropps is pictured here with his limit of walleyes taken from an Iron County walleye lake. (Ziegler photo)
CRYSTAL FALLS—The new fishing and hunting license fees that have been proposed by Michigan Governor Snyder and the DNR, as part of the DNR budget, are creating considerable discussion by local outdoor sports groups.
The Michigan state legislature is considering the proposal to restructure and raise license fees at this time. The last time fishing and hunting license fees were raised was in 1997.
The new fee structure would have one annual resident fish-ing license for $25 versus having a fishing license at $15 and trout upgrade an additional $13, as it is now. The daily fishing license would increase from $7 to $15. The new plan also calls for a base resident hunting license of $10 with individual species licenses like deer ($20 after the increase), turkey ($15 same as the present fee) and bear ($25 after the increase). The new structure reduces the number of types of licenses from more than 200 down to 31.
Floyd Dropps, chairman of the Upper Peninsula Sports-man’s Alliance (UPSA) Fisheries Committee said, “We understand the DNR needs more funds to support fisheries manage-ment activities in the U P, although we object to how the DNR Fisheries plans (even with a fee increase) to abandon some of their core responsibilities.”
Dropps went on to say, “We understand raising fishing license fees overall, if it maintains or improves on the most im-portant fisheries management priorities (like inland walleye rearing and stocking etc.) but in this case they plan to raise license fees and deeply cut back or shift their responsibilities to volunteers for some of the fisheries programs most important to U.P. anglers.” Dropps bases his comments on the recent publication of the DNR fisheries five year strategic plan (long term priority work plan) that reduces or eliminates some long time core DNR responsibilities regardless of funding status.
Dr. Jim Nicolas speaking for Wildlife Unlimited of Dickinson County said, “We can support a moderate increase in hunt-ing license fees provided that it helps maintain or improves current high value wildlife programs (quality deer and grouse etc.) in the Upper Peninsula.”
Nicolas went on to say, “We do not support a fishing license increase unless the high value programs like maintenance stocking of walleye in our area lakes is fully restored.”
One product of the proposed DNR license fee increase would be to provide increased funding to hire and train 25 new conservation officers to fill vacancies that have occurred throughout the state. At this time there is no DNR plan to fill DNR fisheries or wildlife vacancies. In 2001 the DNR had 243 conservation officers throughout the state, in 2013 only 173 remain. Floyd Dropps of UPSA is concerned about reduced conservation officer numbers but is even more concerned about greatly reduced fisheries field personnel in the UP.
Dropps stated, “We obtained field personnel numbers from the Fisheries Division and we only have three field fisheries biologists to cover the U P, which is about 30 percent of Michi-gan’s land mass and water.” Dropps feels that DNR Fisheries Division has already drastically cut U P fisheries efforts, significantly more than down state fisheries operations. “Some downstate fisheries offices are fully staffed with three field fisheries biologists, which is the same we have to cover the entire U.P.”
Rick Commenator, president of Wildlife Unlimited of Iron County, said, “I feel the majority of his board would support an increase in hunting and fishing license fees, provided it results in increased staffing of conservation officers, and field fish and wildlife personnel, and improved fish and wildlife projects for the U.P.”
Kevin Sundholm, vice president of the East Dickinson County Sportsman’s Club, echoed the previous comments, “We can go along with a limited increase in the license fees as long as that results in more boots on the ground for local DNR wildlife and fisheries managers.”
Benji Wood, vice president of the Boundary Waters Mus-kie Club, also saw the need for more funding for the Fisheries Division provided that results in increased efforts and projects managing U.P. waters by the DNR.
Finally, Tony Demboski, president of the Upper Peninsula Sportsman’s Alliance, said he recently attended a Conservation Leaders Forum for Michigan, where most attendees supported a more balanced approach to filling the DNR employee vacancies to splitting new hires between conservation officers and fish and wildlife field personnel.
Demboski went on to sum up what he felt by saying, “Most hunters and fisherman could live with the proposed hunting and fishing license fee structure provided they saw improvements in fishing and hunting.”
More detailed information on the license structure and changes can be found online at www.michigan.gov/dnr.