All hunting licenses issued by Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will be increased by $1 in 2016 – and before you start complaining, consider how the money will be spent.
This was a bill proposed by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, an unprecedented bill for the organization, as SAM’s Executive Director Dave Trahan testified at the public hearing, “This bill is a first for SAM in that we are asking for a fee increase.” Calling the bill, “one of the most important of the session,” Dave said, “It solves many chronic funding issues at the Department and reinforces DIF&W’s role in referendums.”
Joining SAM in testifying for the bill was Don Kleiner, representing the Maine Professional Guides Association, and James Cote, representing the Maine Trappers Association. DIF&W opposed the bill, mostly because the $1 is targeted to a specific program and doesn’t allow the agency the flexibility to spend the money any way it wants.
Governor Paul LePage apparently didn’t like the bill either, because he vetoed it after it whipped through the House and Senate, but his veto was easily over-ridden.
DIF&W is directed to use the new revenue to educate the public on the management of game species. The agency must also convene a stakeholders group to create a five-year public outreach campaign on the efforts of the department to manage game species, including a plan on how to use the increased revenue.
Dave Trahan explained SAM’s reasons for proposing the bill at the hearing. “As we learned during the bear referendum, many Maine residents, particularly in urban areas, struggle to understand the complexity of wildlife management. In addition, we learned that there are national organizations that prey on our nation’s growing urbanization and disconnect with wildlife.
“This bill is critical in that it provides the Department with enough resources to provide an ongoing public education program, specifically wildlife management, while at the same time solving several important issues related to the ongoing HSUS lawsuit and appeals,” said Dave.
The Humane Society of the United States is pursuing a lawsuit claiming that DIF&W improperly participated in, and spent money on, the bear referendum.
“The bill clarifies that the new education dollars, paid entirely by sportsmen, can be used to educate the public during initiative campaigns,” said Dave. “Secondly, it creates a much easier and more accountable system for tracking education activity.”
Dave also noted that 77% of SAM’s members, on their last annual survey, said they supported this $1 increase in hunting license fees, and another 12 percent were undecided.
Now, it’s your turn to express you opinion on this fee increase, in my Sportsman Say Survey, accessed here.