New MassWildlife plan features phased license fee hikes

Massachusetts
Westfied Fishing Derby_187075

BOSTON (SHNS) – Based on feedback from the public to its plan to increase its freshwater fishing, hunting, and trapping fees for the first time in 25 years, MassWildlife is now proposing smaller stamp and permit fee hikes and a multi-year phase-in for higher license fees.

The agency will hold three public hearings on its revised plan next month. When it announced its intention to raise fees for hunting and fishing, MassWildlife said the changes were necessary to make up for declines in the number of licenses purchased and rising costs that threaten to sap the agency of its primary funding source within three years.

“Although many stakeholders expressed an understanding of the need to raise fees after 25 years, there was a strong desire to see the proposed increases for license fees phased in over time, and to lower the proposed increases for the costs of hunting permits and stamps. In response, MassWildlife and the Department of Fish and Game worked with the Baker-Polito Administration to revise the original fee proposal,” the agency said on its website. “Recognizing that all Massachusetts residents benefit from MassWildlife’s work to conserve wildlife, protect open space, and preserve clean water and air, the Baker-Polito Administration will work to diversify MassWildlife’s funding and reduce the burden on the fee-paying sporting community.”

The latest proposal phases in the proposed license fees over five years. The cost of a resident fishing or hunting license will rise from the current $22.50 to the initially proposed $40 price by 2026, annual increases of $3.50 rather than a single-year jump to $40. Non-resident license fees are also slated to rise on the same timeline. The prices for the various stamps and permits required to hunt bear, deer, turkey, pheasant, waterfowl and small game, and to participate in archery and muzzleloader seasons would also rise under the new proposals, but not by as much as was first proposed. Most of those permits and stamps cost about $5 now and will increase to about $10 rather than $20 as was first proposed.

The increases would be larger for non-residents. The sale of hunting, freshwater fishing, and trapping licenses, permits, and stamps is the primary source of funding for MassWildlife and its Inland Fish and Game Fund, the agency said. But sporting and hunting license sales have declined 20 percent and 50 percent, respectively, over the last 25 years, and MassWildlife now issues about 27,000 free licenses each year to residents 70 years and older.

Virtual public hearings on the latest proposal will be held June 22, 23 and 24. MassWildlife is also accepting comments online through July 8. 

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