This editorial appeared in Friday's Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:
Twenty-five bucks and a claim to Alaska residency will buy a local hunter a chance at one of the largest wild game species on the continent, the Alaska-Yukon moose.
Would it be a bargain at twice the price?
We think so.
It's been more than a decade since hunting, fishing and trapping license fees have seen an increase. License and tag fee sales, matched by federal funds, provide the fuel for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Its most recent annual budget figure is $140 million.
Nonresident hunters would continue to shoulder the lion's share of the Fish and Game financial burden, with a nonresident hunting license twice the price of a resident license, but the proposed percentage increase for nonresidents seems to recognize that nonresident fees are already "up there."
It's best to take the fee increases in the context that the majority of our local Fish and Game budget comes from nonresident hunters and matching federal dollars.
Our resident hunters, fishers and trappers will see the largest percentage increases, but a combined license to hunt, fish and trap in our great state still will come in at the bargain price of $100. If the hunter wishes to pursue only small game, the rate would be only $75, because a new $25 "small game" license will be made available. Rounding out the tally, resident sport-fishing licenses would increase from $15 to $20. Resident hunting licenses would double from $25 to $50 and resident trapping licenses would go from $15 to $30.
Other fees, such as drawing-permit application fees, state waterfowl stamps, Tier II application fees and registration permit stamps also will increase in price.
Hunters who travel to other states, and those who grew up or still have family elsewhere, can appreciate the relatively simple, and relatively inexpensive, licensing system in Alaska. Montana, for example, has a different fee and license to buy for each of its big-game species. If a hunter wanted the option to hunt the full variety of Montana game, the cost would be $323. While Alaskans need separate tags for species such as moose and caribou, most fees are covered under that initial hunting license expense.
Alaska's fishing license fees are on par with other states, and perhaps a little on the higher side, but a direct payoff from this increase appears to be establishment of a fish hatchery in Fairbanks and perhaps a second in Anchorage. That makes an Alaska fishing license an easy sell at $20 a pop. That much will buy you about 2 pounds of salmon (depending on the species and the cut) at the local market about now.
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.
Fish and Game will forward the license increase proposal to the Alaska Legislature when it convenes in January.
While the increase feels like a big one, we have gone 10 years without an increase in fees and we are asking no less of Fish and Game managers. The request appears to be a reasonable one.