Michael A. Sawyers
CUMBERLAND — A bill that would increase the cost of a hunting license for an adult Maryland resident by $20 and help the financially strapped Wildlife & Heritage Service will be introduced at the General Assembly, which opens for legislative business Wednesday.
The bill, which does not yet have a number, would raise the cost from $24.50 to $44.50 for hunters ages 16 to 64. The cost for senior and junior licenses would not be affected. Neither would there be increases in the costs of stamps, such as those for hunting with bow or muzzleloader, according to Bill Miles of the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Foundation, the nonpartisan group guiding the effort.
“We’re calling it the Wildlife Management & Sustainability Act of 2013,” Miles said. “This bill is not being led by the Department of Natural Resources, but by the sportsmen of Maryland.”
The increase is not an easy sell. A proposed increase of $15.50 was thwarted a year ago by a vote of 69-62 based upon perceived economic hardship to hunters.
Already, the Allegany-Garrett Sportsmen’s Association has voted to refuse support for an increase, according to President Jerry Zembower.
Zembower said Saturday that the other associations in the Western Maryland Sportsmen’s Coalition — hailing from Washington, Frederick and Carroll counties — have also chosen to oppose an increase.
However, representatives from all of those organizations are meeting today in Frederick with officials from WHS and MLSF to hear an explanation of why the increase is needed.
The act would also:
• Boost a nonresident adult license from $130 to $150.
• Mandate that DNR impose fees upon nonhunters who use wildlife management areas.
• Use fines for wildlife violations to fund WHS programs.
• Authorize the governor to allocate general funds to be stored in a new State Wildlife Management and Protection Fund and used for wildlife management.
Miles has said the intent is to raise an additional $2.5 million so that the wildlife agency can maintain existing programs such as black bear management and add or improve other efforts.
Zembower, though, said AGSA continues to oppose an increase based upon economic hardships, especially those he sees in Allegany County.
“A hunter who buys his license and a couple more for two of his children old enough to need adult licenses has just put out an additional $60,” Zembower said Saturday. “With income taxes going up and gas taxes probably going up, it’s just too much at this point in time.”
In an analytical perspective titled “Hunting is a Privilege That Costs,” MLSF writes that the most recent increase in the cost of a hunting license happened 23 years ago.
“Data shows the (Wildlife & Heritage) service is broke,” the report states. “As sportsmen, we can either ignore this fact or help out. It’s your call.”
None of the money that would go into the new wildlife fund could be used for purposes other than wildlife management.
Contact Michael A. Sawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org.