Hunting License Fees to Go Uptesttest
I expected rancor, high emotion and fireworks. Who wouldn’t complain, years into a recession, at being targeted for a substantial hike in fees?
What happened at last Saturday’s hunters’ roundtable was nothing of the kind.
Maryland hunters, outfitters and waterfowl guides were assembled by the Maryland Sportsmen’s Legislative Foundation to meet with the Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife & Heritage Division. The point was to discuss the Division’s recently introduced legislation to raise the cost of hunting licenses (House Bill 1419 and Senate Bill1014).
Instead of bedlam, the meeting was an eye-opening model of how well-informed sportsmen could not only accept the need for the additional funding but embrace that burden.
DNR Secretary John Griffin was well received by the assembly as he explained that the short notice and abrupt introduction of the bill were due to legislative protocol and not an intentional shot by the Department.
The yellow perch spawning run continues at peak levels. Big catches are being made at Red Bridges, Millington, Tuckahoe, the Wye and all along the upper Choptank, the mouth of the North East on the Flats and south to the Nanticoke and Pocomoke.
Paul Peditto, director of DNR’s Wildlife & Heritage Division for the past 10 years and an especially dedicated wildlife manager, made the main presentation. Peditto has established a solid bond of mutual trust with sports people and organizations. As he laid out the Department’s options and explained the rationale for the proposed increases, his word was accepted virtually unchallenged by participants. He explained that without an increase in license fees, many critical wildlife research programs could not be funded.
His audience was well-studied about the situation, and though many were concerned about the impact of the fee increases, all seemed prepared to agree on its necessity.
I had read that resident licenses were to skyrocket from $24.50 per year to $95, Not so. The basic license increase proposed is from the current $24.50 to $40. A migratory bird stamp will now be $12 (an increase from $9), and a turkey stamp has been added at a cost of $10. A consolidated license, including all the options, is going to rise from $60.50 to $95. These are the first hunting fee increases in over 20 years.
Not only was I astounded by the spirit of cooperation between the Department, the Sportsmen’s Foundation and the hunting organizations, but I also learned in detail how hunting license fees support wildlife.
Maryland’s hunters provide the overwhelming majority of funding for DNR’s oversight and conservation of all the estimated 84 species of mammals and 233 species of birds that reside in our fair state. Programs for songbirds, bats, newts, animal research, nuisance animal removal and relocation, animal damage reparation and even wildlife rehabilitation are among the many areas funded through hunting license fees.
Birdwatchers, dog walkers, lepidopterists (butterfly fans), hikers, nature photographers and everyday outdoor lovers who visit DNR’s 110,000-plus acres of Wildlife Management Areas do so courtesy of Maryland’s 80,000 licensed hunters. Though comprising less than three percent of the state’s total population, hunters shoulder the full burden of wildlife administration.
The meeting ended with an informal vote supporting DNR’s plan plus a resolution to continue the roundtable gatherings to reinforce lines of communication between DNR and Maryland hunters. Would that other outdoor organizations, especially those involving boaters and anglers, learn from the success and style of this gathering.
Good News on Maryland Oysters
The year’s survival rate of native oysters in the Chesapeake is the highest in 27 years. That excellent news is prime indication that oyster sanctuaries are the key to developing disease resistance. We can thank Gov. Martin O’Malley directly for that. He’s the first governor in anyone’s memory to put his weight solidly behind the recovery of our beleaguered bivalve.