FAIRBANKS - Fishermen, hunters and trappers would pay more for license and tag fees under a proposal being put forward by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The agency is proposing to increase license and tag fees to increase a budget hurt by inflation, declining revenue and increased demand for wildlife and fisheries management.
Fees would increase for both residents and nonresidents, though nonresidents would shoulder a bigger burden, as they do now.
If the proposal wins legislative approval, the increase would go into effect beginning Jan. 1, 2006.
Resident sport fishing licenses would increase only $5, from $15 to $20. Resident hunting licenses would double from $25 to $50 and resident trapping licenses would go from $15 to $30.
A new "small game" license is proposed, however, which would cost $25.
"In case someone wants to hunt just small game and not large game, we're going to offer that as an alternative," said Fish and Game information officer Cathie Harms.
It costs $80 for an Alaska resident to hunt all species of game in Alaska while it costs $323 to do the same in Montana; $735 in Wyoming; and $1,507 in Utah. The average cost to hunt all species in the nine Western states is $756.
"Even if you double the fee, (hunting) is a bargain up here," Harms told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
License and tag fee sales, matched by federal monies, comprise all of the department's approximately $140 million budget. It would be the first time in more than a decade license fees have been increased. The last time license fees were hiked was in 1993.
Nonresident hunting licenses would increase from $85 to $100 and nonresident fishing licenses would increase in price by $5 to $25 depending on the type; annual versus daily or weekly.
Nonresident big game tag fees would also increase across the board.
Other fees, such as drawing permit application fees and state waterfowl stamps would also increase. New fees would be imposed for small game licenses, Tier II application fees and registration permit stamps.
"We can't stretch dollars like we used to," David James, regional supervisor for ADF&G in Fairbanks. "We can't hold license and tag fee costs constant indefinitely."
The fee increases would raise an additional $3.5 million for the Division of Wildlife Conservation and $5.5 million for the Division of Sport Fish. The increase in sport fishing licenses will be used to fund a new fish hatchery in Fairbanks and eventually one in Anchorage.
Matt Robus, director of the state wildlife division, said that the wildlife division's portion of the Fish and Game Fund has dwindled from several million dollars to a few hundred thousand as result of declining revenue from out-of-state hunters and inflation.
That, combined with no increase in license or tag fees in more than a decade, as well as the construction of two new shooting ranges in Fairbanks and Juneau, has left the department strapped for cash.
The wildlife department has already cut back on personnel and research programs to deal with declining revenues, while at the same time increasing costs to deal with things like predator control and intensive management.
If hunters don't pay higher license and tag fees now, they will pay in the form of fewer hunting opportunities in the future, Robus said.