Tag Archives: LICENSE FEES

Here’s How Much WDFW’s Proposed Fee Increase Would Cost You

I’d pay between $13.75 and $17.57 more to fish, crab and hunt in Washington under a 12 to 15 percent fee-increase proposal, one of two that WDFW put out for comment this week.

The across-the-board hike would raise the price of my combination fishing license, deer tag, and Puget Sound Dungeness, two-pole and Columbia River endorsements from $132.55 a year to $146.30 to $150.12.

That’s according to a draft estimate matrix produced by WDFW staffers at my request.

It shows potential out-the-door prices that reflect increases to both the agency’s base license and 10 percent transaction fees, but not the $.50 to $2 outside vendor charge. That means prices vary from true 12 to 15 percent rises.

But the tally would still rise commensurately for hunters and anglers who buy even more licenses than I do, say deer + elk + bear + cougar + small game (from $117.50 to $131.36 to $134.83), Westside pheasant (from $84.50 to $94.40 to $96.88) and shellfish/seaweed (from $17.40 to $19.25 to $19.71).

CHINOOK ANGLERS TROLL POSSESSION BAR EARLIER THIS MONTH. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

THE EXERCISE IS BEING DRIVEN BY A LOOMING $30 MILLION 2019-21 budget shortfall that has WDFW considering patching it in part with sportsman dollars but also the state General Fund, if state lawmakers sign off on it next winter and spring.

WDFW’s second proposal would be less expensive, at least for some, a single $10 fee that each license buyer would pay once annually ($3 for those who only buy a temporary license).

That option would save me and the agency’s highest-spending customers a little money over the other.

But it would be a relatively higher hit for fishermen who just work the lakes for trout in spring or bass in summer, clammers who only head to ocean beaches to dig razors in winter, and hunters who only chase quail in fall.

Ten bucks works out to a 7.6 percent increase for me and 5 percent for the sportsman who buys $200 in licenses, endorsements and tags, but 34 percent for the guy or gal who only plunks at Green Lake.

I can tell you right now which option I’d prefer, but is that fair to those who use less of the resource than I do, and would it lead to some of them deciding to just not buy a license? Trout anglers are one of WDFW’s most numerous constituencies.

Either way, nothing is set in stone yet and WDFW’s running an opinion survey in the lead-up to next month’s Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting, where a final decision on what sort of package to take to legislators will be made. If a percentage increase is chosen over the $10 option, the price matrix would be updated with new costs.

A HERD OF MULE DEER IN THE PRESCOTT GMU. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

THIS IS THE SECOND TIME IN TWO YEARS that WDFW has sought a license increase. The 2016 Wild Futures Initiative proposed 10 percent hunting and 17 to 20 percent fishing increases, along with new $17 to $11.50 catch cards for salmon, steelhead, halibut and sturgeon that were later reduced to $10 each.

It went down in flames in Olympia during last year’s legislative session, but lawmakers did provide a $10 million one-time dip into the General Fund to cover this biennium’s large budget shortfall.

They also gave the agency marching orders to review its management practices, perform a zero-based budget analysis, come up with a long-term funding plan, and work more closely with stakeholders.

WDFW identified $3 million worth of cuts as well and those are scheduled to occur over the next year.

With those chores ticked off and the deadline for submitting 2019-21 budget proposals to the Fish and Wildlife Commission and then the Office of Financial Management approaching, earlier this week WDFW held an hour-long evening webinar on their predicament and increase proposals, available here.

Following his presentation, Policy Director Nate Pamplin took about a half hour’s worth of “good questions” from viewers.

The 60 to 65 who tuned in at any one time wondered why revenue from hunter and angler license sales is only holding steady or dropping over time — a major cause of the shortfall and similar to national trends — how WDFW can hope to increase participation when it seems opportunities are increasingly limited, whether selling off wildlife areas was an option, and what’s being done to bring in dollars from nonconsumptive users, among others.

On that last one, Pamplin pointed out to reporters earlier in the day that two-thirds of WDFW’s overall proposed $60 million ask of the legislature to fill the shortfall and increase some fishing and hunting ops, along with fund key conservation work, would be paid for through the General Fund, the other third by sportsmen. With Wild Futures, it all would have fallen on the wallets of sportsmen.

That is a different direction than just a few years ago but also a recognition that, say, producing salmon not only benefits anglers but also society as a whole through commercial and tribal fisheries that provide fillets for those who don’t venture out, as well as ecological benefits to the food web, Pamplin said.

Indeed, this week there’s grim news that another baby orca has died, part of a resident population that is in nutritional distress because their key feedstock, Puget Sound fall Chinook, is in decline.

Pamplin also wondered aloud about whether the time game wardens spend dealing with black bears getting into suburban residents’ garbage cans should really be paid for with hunter dollars, as it is now, or the General Fund?

LAST YEAR A TRAIL CAMERA STATIONED IN THE SOUTHERN SECTION OF NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK CAPTURED AN IMAGE OF THIS WOLF. (NPS)

HONESTLY, $10, $13.75 AND $17.57 AREN’T A LOT FOR Ol’ Moneybags Walgamott. At the midpoint, it is about half what it cost to go out to a barbecue joint with my wife Tuesday night when we were both too lazy to cook, and around what I spent on used books later that evening.

Dinner was one and done, but I might read the books a second time, if they’re good.

The fishing and hunting licenses allow me to go over and over and over and fill my freezer.

(Well, theoretically if I was actually any good at catching salmon and chasing down deer.)

But while the fee increase might also help catch up to inflation since the last one in 2011, for those expressing opposition so far, that is not the point.

It is that the quality of Washington’s fishing and hunting experience is not $10 or 12 to 15 percent better than it was last year, that they don’t agree with WDFW’s direction on wolves and other predators, that the state may have lost the productive Skokomish River meat Chinook fishery — fueled by a WDFW hatchery, no less — for good, and any of a thousand other beefs with the agency and its management of the public’s fish, wildlife and wildlands that they’re already paying to fund but are unhappy with the current product.

Pamplin acknowledged as much that the increases are a tough sell, and that there are concerns WDFW could price sportsmen out of the market, a vicious loop for the budget.

Still, with potential cuts to hatchery operations, enforcement, wildlife conflict prevention, lands management and other programs, and over 100 jobs at stake if WDFW’s proposal falls flat again, he wants to hear what the public’s priorities are.

My thoughts don’t matter, but yours do. You can make your feelings known through WDFW’s survey.

And the Fish and Wildlife Commission is slated to talk about the proposal at its Aug. 10-11 meeting in Olympia before making a recommendation to lawmakers who draw up and vote on WDFW’s budget. Fee bills would also be subject to legislative hearings where you can have your say as well.

Correction: A miscalculation of increases proposed under the Wild Futures Initiative led to too-low estimates of select fishing license increases. Instead of 8 to 9%, those should have read 17 to 20%.

WDFW Outlines Budget Issues, Proposed ‘Modest’ Fee Increase

WDFW hopes to lean on the general public more to fill a potential $30 million shortfall in the next budget biennium, a fundamental shift from just a few years ago, but sportsmen may still be asked to pay a “modest” increase to chase Chinook, bucks and ducks under a proposal being unveiled today.

It’s part of an overall $60 million bid that also includes strategic investments to improve angling and hunting and is now up for discussion, with tonight offering the first chance for you to hear about it first hand as state managers hold a webinar starting at 7 p.m.

Briefing reporters this afternoon, WDFW Policy Director Nate Pamplin says there are two fee-increase options WDFW’s looking at currently.

One is a 12- to 15-percent across-the-board hike, the first since 2011, and the other is a $10 charge that license buyers would pay once a year ($3 for temporary permits).

Neither is a done deal and the Fish and Wildlife Commission must first determine whether to ask the state Legislature to pass it during the 2019 session.

If you’ve got a sense of deja vu all over again, it’s because, yes, we just went through this.

WDFW’S NATE PAMPLIN BRIEFS REPORTERS DURING A WEBINAR ON ITS BUDGET ISSUES.

Pamplin acknowledged that fee bills are tough sells, and that was definitely the case with former Director Jim Unsworth’s Wild Futures Initiative, which flamed out in 2017.

It proposed 10 percent hunting and 17 to 20 percent fishing increases, along with new $17 to $10 catch cards for salmon, steelhead, halibut and sturgeon.

Pamplin attributed that to “a real lack of trust in the department” but with lawmakers’ one-time $10 million bump that year instead of license increases came requirements that the agency review its management practices, perform a zero-based budget analysis and come up with a long-term funding plan.

Essentially, the funding problem isn’t bloated management and too many IT staffers but long-term issues caused by revenues from sportsmen not keeping up with how much it costs to manage fish, wildlife and opportunities to pursue them, increasing legislative requirements, deep budget cuts in the years after the Great Recession and the looming expiration of the key Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement.

“Your power bill goes up, our fish food bill goes up,” Pamplin said.

Three million dollars worth of cuts to fish stocking, habitat work and volunteer grant programs have also been identified and will occur in the coming months.

And WDFW created a budget and policy work group made up of influential members of the fishing and hunting communities — Ron Garner, Andy Marks, Rachel Voss, Mark Pidgeon — and other groups in Washington’s outdoor world, and for several months now they’ve been getting an eyeful about where and how license money comes from and what it’s used for.

“We lifted up the hood on our budget,” says Pamplin when asked what made this effort different from Wild Futures’ failure.

One thing that I learned when I took my own peak earlier this year was just how much of my fishing and hunting license money went to WDFW.

All of it.

Even so, adding to the price to go crabbing, troll for coho, and wander the Palouse for pheasants will see pushback, as it should because the product isn’t what it once was — habitat issues, decreased hatchery production, a booming state population are all impacting the quality and experience.

Pamplin said WDFW recognized those “optics” as well as concerns about pricing hunter and anglers out of the field and off the water.

ANOTHER SCREENGRAB FROM TODAY’S WEBINAR.

But what’s also different with WDFW’s request this time is that in 2017, the budget “solution” was entirely based on the wallets of the state’s sportsmen, as Pamplin told Northwestern Outdoors Radio host John Kruse, whereas this time only 33 percent is.

That’s because Pamplin et al hope that lawmakers will recognize that much of what WDFW does benefits that state as a whole and should be funded thusly.

That represents a shift from 2010, when one top manager told me at the time WDFW was “making a concerted effort to make itself less dependent on the General Fund” because it didn’t compete well with public health, prison and education.

Where it leaned heavily on us in the following years, the agency is now trying to broaden its funding base.

Pamplin said hunting and fishing produce $3.4 billion in economic activity annually in Washington, and based on current appropriations from it, a 350 percent return on investment to GF-S, the state General Fund.

Answering a Kruse question, Pamplin wondered out loud who should pay for the game warden who has to go out to the suburban house and deal with the bear eating out of the garbage cans? Right now, hunter dollars fund the work but he feels that the General Fund should instead.

As for what WDFW would do if it were to receive that $60 million package from the General Fund and license increases from legislators, Pamplin pointed to a mix of programs that could continue/not have to be cut and long-term investments it could focus on, including:

Wildlife conflict prevention and response ($4.4 million)
Shellfish enforcement and consumer protection ($2.5 million)
Land management ($2.7 million)
Hatchery operations and fisheries management ($9 million)
Hunting management, including hunter education ($3.2 million)
Recovery of at-risk species and prevention of invasive species ($3.5 million)
Columbia River Salmon and Steelhead Endorsement program ($3.3 million)
Customer service support ($1.9 million)

 And:

Conservation investments in such programs as salmon recovery, watershed health, biodiversity, and conservation enforcement ($14.7 million)
Expanded fishing opportunities and hatchery improvements ($5.6 million)
Hunting enhancements, including improved law enforcement and access ($3.5 million)
Orca recovery (amount TBD)

If those were the carrots, there wasn’t much stick in Pamplin’s webinar.

But he did point to seven hatcheries at risk if no funding is found — a list that includes Reiter Ponds, Humptulips and Omak, among others — as well as the warmwater program, ensuring early winter steelhead programs are ESA compliant and rehabbing lakes and streams.

Along with tonight’s webinar, Pamplin says there will be a chance to make your feelings known through an upcoming public opinion survey.

The Fish and Wildlife Commission is also slated to talk about the proposal at its Aug. 10-11 meeting in Olympia before making a recommendation to lawmakers who draw up and vote on WDFW budget bills.

Correction: A miscalculation of increases proposed under the Wild Futures Initiative led to too-low estimates of select fishing license increases. Instead of 8 to 9%, those should have read 17 to 20%.

Oregon Fish-Wildlife Commission To Talk Cougar Plan, License Fees

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE

The Fish and Wildlife Commission will meet Friday, Oct. 13 at the Crook County Fairgrounds, 1280 Main St in Prineville beginning at 8 a.m.

The meeting will follow this agenda, http://www.dfw.state.or.us/agency/commission/minutes/17/10_oct/index.asp, and be livestreamed online via ODFW’s @MyODFW account on Periscope and Twitter.

THE OREGON FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION MEETING FRIDAY, OCT. 13, WILL BE LIVE STREAMED. (PERISCOPE)

The Commission will be asked to adopt an updated Oregon Cougar Management Plan. The Plan was last revised in 2006. The draft updated Plan incorporates new scientific literature and Oregon-specific research about cougars, including a genetics and habitat analysis, but does not propose major management changes. The updated Plan continues to stress coexistence with Oregon’s more than 6,400 cougars.

The Commission will also be asked to adopt new fees for recreational and other licenses that will take effect Jan. 1, 2018. These fees were already approved by the Oregon State Legislature when it passed ODFW’s 2015-17 budget. Typically, ODFW raises fees once every six years but during this six-year cycle, fee increases are staggered with a more modest fee increase every two years. The first stage occurred for 2016 licenses. Beginning with 2018 licenses, the cost of an annual hunting license will increase by $1.50 to $33.50, an annual fishing license will increase by $3 to $41 and a Combination License will increase by $4 to $69. The cost of juvenile licenses will stay the same as part of efforts to make hunting and fishing affordable for young people and their families. To see the full Recreational Fee License Schedule visit ODFW’s budget page.

Public testimony before the Commission will be held first thing Friday morning, just after the adoption of temporary rules. Persons seeking to testify on issues not on the formal agenda may do so by making arrangements with the ODFW’s Director’s office, at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting, by calling 800-720-6339 or 503-947-6044.

Reasonable accommodations will be provided as needed for individuals requesting assistive hearing devices, sign language interpreters or large-print materials. Individuals needing these types of accommodations may call the ODFW Director’s Office at 800-720-6339 or 503-947-6044 at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting.

On Thursday, Oct. 12 the Commission will tour the Prineville area with stops at Bowman Dam on the Crooked River to discuss fish management and at Opal Springs to discuss fish passage. Some parts of the tour during are not open to the public as they are at privately-owned facilities. For more information see the tour itinerary.