LANSING (AP) - Michigan hunters and anglers will see their first significant fee increase in more than 15 years under a law Gov. Rick Snyder signed Tuesday that is expected to increase revenue for improving wildlife habitats and beefing up enforcement.
The fees, which are to generate 40 percent more revenue, will kick in March 1 and include a new "base" hunting license costing $11 for in-state residents, with lower rates for youths and seniors. Out-of-state hunters will be charged $151.
The base license will pay for hunting waterfowl, migratory birds and small game like rabbits. Separate additional fees still will be levied for hunting certain species, and some of those will increase. Tags for deer will rise from $15 to $20, and the bear license from $15 to $25.
When the new fees take effect, Michigan will have 42 hunting and fishing license fees instead of the 227 it has today. The fees, which generated roughly $49 million in the last budget year, are expected to bring in nearly $20 million more in revenue.
"Everyone supported this. This was across the board in terms of hunters, fishermen, people really saying this is a good thing," Snyder said during a bill-signing ceremony in his Lansing office, where he was joined by state Department of Natural Resources employees and representatives of outdoor organizations.
"It gives us an opportunity to simplify a system that had become too complicated," he said. "... But more important than that is reinvesting resources back into these important areas."
The last big hike in hunting and fishing fees came in 1997, with $1 increases following in 2001 and 2005.
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Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm's calls to significantly boost the fees for the DNR budget were blocked by lawmakers, but this time Snyder secured crucial support from sportsmen's groups and others.
"Without their input, we probably wouldn't have gone anywhere with this bill," said its sponsor, Rep. Jon Bumstead, a Newaygo Republican and hunter.
Eric McDonough, executive director of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, said what made Snyder's proposal different was his administration seeking input from the outdoor community and pledging to put the additional money into areas that sportsmen's groups wanted to improve. The new state budget starting Oct. 1 includes funding to hire and train 30 new conservation officers. The fees in part could help pay for another 16 officers, according to Snyder's February budget proposal.
"We engaged from the beginning in saying we wanted more boots on the ground, we wanted more enforcement, we wanted more research and science, we wanted more of an investment in fisheries and habitat," McDonough said. "We don't want to do this if you're not going to put the money there and if you're not going to commit to being transparent and reporting and helping the groups understand how those investments are leading to outcomes on the ground."
Under the new law, in-state hunters and anglers will be able to buy a combination license that includes a base hunting license, two deer licenses and an all-species fishing license for $75, or $265 for a non-resident. Anglers will no longer choose between a restricted or all-species license. All fishing licenses will be all-species.
A 24-hour fishing license will increase from $7 to $10. The fee for a seasonal all-species license will drop from $28 to $25 for Michigan residents, but rise from $42 to $75 for out-of-state anglers.
A $1 surcharge included in the cost of a base hunting license, combination license or all-species fishing license will be dedicated to marketing, education and outreach.