By Steve Weisman
Those of us who hunt and fish know that without all of the services provided by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the quality of our hunting and fishing experiences would be significantly reduced. However, the license fees had not been increased for nearly 15 years, and the DNR has had to operate at the same funding level for many of those years. Obviously, inflation has eaten away at the budget, to the point where the agency was backed up to a cliff, and if something wasn’t done, many services were going to be slashed or eliminated.
My greatest fear was that nothing would be done, and then it would be too late, and Iowans would have realized a huge drop in the services we have grown to expect. Thank goodness, the Iowa Legislature has heard the outcries from hunters and anglers, and House File 574 is currently moving its way through, and it is hoped that the bill will pass both the House and Senate and head to the Governor’s desk for signature.
The proposed bill looks at increasing hunting and fishing licenses. At this point, it looks as if there will be some more work on the bill, so I can’t say for sure what the actual increase will be or the wording associated with the increase. However, let’s just say we increased fees by $8. It is quite a jump, but considering there have been no increases for nearly 15 years, it simply must be done. Certainly, there are critics of the bill and some say it is a tax increase. However, it is not. It is simply an increase in a user fee.
I look at it this way. My grandson is now 17 years old and loves to hunt and fish. He can go get a Big Mac meal four times, and he’ll spend around $25. If the license increase is passed, he can go fishing every day of the year for $25. Oh, by the way, that Big Mac meal that costs around $6 today, only cost about $2.50 in 2000! See what I mean about inflation!
Where license dollars go
So, where will this new revenue go? All license fees go directly into the Fish and Wildlife Trust Fund. The Iowa Constitution only allows those funds to be used exclusively for fish and wildlife-related research, education, management and expansion of opportunities in Iowa. The fund is constitutionally protected so license dollars cannot pay for other state programs.
Our license dollars are directly reinvested to ensure Iowa maintains its strong outdoor traditions. As examples, the daily operations of Iowa fish hatcheries, pheasant research, and conservation officer protection could not be possible without our license dollars. Just as importantly, thousands of wildlife programs, lake improvements, land purchases and research projects have been funded by Iowa’s sportsmen and women.
Here are just some of the individual success stories: world class walleye production, brown trout explosion, reintroduction of the Canada goose, turkey turn-around, wildlife restoration shallow lake restoration.
At this point, we need to continue to let our legislators know just how important House File 574 is to all Iowans! It is imperative that the license increase is passed. What we often forget is that we don’t need to be anglers and hunters to enjoy the benefits of our natural resources. However, those of us who buy fishing and hunting licenses are making sure WE ALL get to experience these natural resources.