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Minnesota DNR wants to raise license fees for hunting, fishing

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources launched a campaign Tuesday to increase fishing and hunting license fees this legislative session.

Under the proposal, a resident angling license would go from $17 to $24, and a resident deer license would go from $26 to $30. Several new kinds of licenses would be offered as well, such as a half-price fishing license for 16- and 17-year-olds and a 90-day resident angling license for $18.

License revenue is the primary way Minnesota pays for fish and wildlife management. Tax money from the state's general fund pays for only a tiny fraction of those operations.

The license fee increase is also part of Gov. Mark Dayton's budget proposal that was released Tuesday. Any fee increase would have to be approved by the Minnesota Legislature. Leaders of the Environment and Natural Resources committees in both the Senate and the House have said they would consider fishing and hunting price increases, but not for a few years.

The DNR's Game and Fish Fund, derived from license fees, is dwindling and is projected to have a negative balance by 2014, DNR officials say. Minnesota's $17 basic fishing license ranks 36th among all states. At their annual round-table meeting with stakeholders in January, DNR officials laid out the case for raising license fees. Without raising those fees soon, they said, the agency would have to make "significant cuts" to programs.

Fishing license fees were last raised in 2001, and hunting license fees were last raised significantly in 2000. The DNR is operating with 100 of about 600 full-time positions unfilled. The Division of Enforcement is down 25 conservation officers.

The governor's budget also includes a new Hunting and Fishing Heritage Initiative that recommends allocating $6.4 million to the DNR in fiscal year 2012 and $9.4 million in fiscal 2013. That money would pay for basic DNR operations, said Ed Boggess, director of the DNR's Division of Fish and Wildlife. Some of that money would be used to fill positions that are now open.