DNR: Game and fish bill passed
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) breathed a collective sigh of relief last Thursday after a game and fish bill was signed into law by Governor Mark Dayton.
The newly signed bill will raise the cost of many hunting and fishing licenses, while lowering youth hunting and fishing licenses to $5 or less. The cost of an annual resident fishing license will go from $17 to $22 and a resident deer license from $26 to $30.
Getting the fee increases is a battle the DNR and many hunting and fishing organizations fought hard for and one they said was necessary to keep the DNR from going into the red in 2013.
The bill, which also included a wolf-hunting season this fall and new regulations to help stop aquatic invasive species (AIS), passed on a 68-62 vote in the House and 34-28 vote in the Senate. The increases will go into effect March 1, 2013.
"There was some real concern with how thin of a margin there was coming out of the Legislature," Glenwood Area Fisheries Supervisor Dean Beck said. "I know perhaps if the wolf bill would have been separate it might have been [easier to pass], but it was a very close vote and we are extremely pleased."
Layoffs and office closures were possibilities without the increases, which made for a lot of nervous moments during the legislative session. Beck said even with the increases, the local DNR is only in a position to maintain programs and not expand them in a lot of areas.
"Not at this point," Beck said. "I don't know that there will be any increase to our base operating budget, but it will probably make available more money to special projects. Things like creel surveys, which we don't get to do too often because of cost and budget shortages. I know just in talking, there's going to be a push to move us a little more progressive in habitat protection and enhancement."
AIS law changes
The bill also contained changes in AIS laws. An online education program has replaced a program that required boaters to have an AIS rules sticker on their watercraft.
The new law, which goes into effect in 2015, will require anyone who transports a watercraft or other water equipment with a trailer to pass an online course. The person will receive a decal after completing the course that must be placed on the trailer to certify that they have taken the class.
The DNR will begin developing the online course soon. The penalty for not displaying the decal will be a warning and not a citation.
Other violations of AIS laws will result in a harder hit on the wallet starting July 1 of this summer. Fines that currently range from $50 to $250 will double under the new legislation. The failure to remove a drain plug while transporting the watercraft will go from $50 to $100 and the penalty for transporting prohibited aquatic invasive species will go from $250 to $500.