Michael A. Sawyers
The Wildlife & Heritage Service and the Fisheries Service, each an arm of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, are asking for more money from the hunters and anglers they serve.
Although different mechanisms are being used, the result is the same. It will cost more to hunt and fish if Senate Bills 619 and 525 are passed and signed by the governor.
The two situations, though, are not all that similar.
Senate Bill 619
The Maryland general hunting license for resident adults has cost $24.50 for 24 years.
In 1987, the cost of a gallon of gas was 95 cents.
This bill proposes to increase the general hunting license to $37.
But get this.
There would be no increase in the cost of special stamps, such as those for hunting deer via muzzleloader or bow.
In addition, not only would there be no increase for junior or senior licenses, but junior hunters would no longer be charged for muzzleloader or bow stamps.
A year ago, a bill that would have increased the cost of the license by $15.50 was defeated in the General Assembly by a vote of 69-62.
Originally this year, the idea was to pump up the license by $20, but an increase of $12.50 was settled upon because members of the Western Maryland Coalition of Sportsmen said a $20 increase would be too much for hunters from Carroll to Garrett counties, according to Lou Compton, a member of the Maryland Wildlife Advisory Commission.
The bill would create a special fund for license revenue so that it could not be pulled and used for anything other than wildlife management.
Also, the bill would direct fines paid by hunting violators into the wildlife management fund.
This is a good bill. It’s been a long time since the hunting fee has increased and the agency needs the income to continue managing wildlife on a scientific basis.
Senate Bill 525
Although a surcharge is not an increase in the license fee per se, you use the same green money to pay for it no matter what it is called.
This bill would add a $10 surcharge to the cost of a $20.50 resident adult recreational fishing license, bringing the cost to $30.50.
I know what you are thinking. You are thinking, “Wait a minute. Didn’t the Fisheries Service increase the cost of a fishing license from $10.50 to $20.50 in 2007?”
The answer to that would be, “Yes.”
Maryland’s attempt to establish a fishing license surcharge is not precedent setting.
Since 1997, anglers in the State of Washington who fish for bass, walleye, channel catfish, tiger muskie and crappie have paid a $5 surcharge in addition to their regular license fees.
The Maryland agency says it would take the new revenue and put it in a fund used for the enforcement of fishery laws and regulations by the state’s natural resources police officers.
Spokeswoman Gina Hunt said via email that only the senior license and complimentary license would not be subject to the surcharge.
Had the cost of a fishing license not recently doubled, I would pause at least long enough to consider my stance on this issue.
But because Maryland anglers have been paying twice as much for six years, the only way I could support this legislation is if bait fishing and the keeping of brook trout are once again allowed in the entire Savage River drainage above Savage River Reservoir. That way, anglers in Almost Maryland would get more for their hard-earned money.
Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org.