Higher fees, no early fishing opener in compromise

Minnesota’s hunting and fishing license fees would increase and wolves could be hunted and trapped under a compromise that state House and Senate negotiators have worked out.

However, the much-discussed provision to start the fishing season a week early this year did not make the cut.

The House and Senate are to take up the compromise legislation before the Legislature’s self-imposed Monday adjournment deadline. The provisions are in two bills negotiators worked out late Thursday.

While Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, expressed confidence the measures could pass the Senate, Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, said majority Republicans alone cannot supply enough votes to pass them in the House. The two are chairmen of the committees dealing with outdoors issues.

Wolf hunting and trapping seasons would be open now that the federal government has removed wolves from the endangered list. Hunters may use firearms or bows and arrows.

The firearms wolf season would open on the same day as firearms deer hunting season. The natural resources commissioner would decide how many wolves could be taken and how many licenses to issue.

Wolf license fees would be $30 for Minnesotans and $250 for residents of other states.

Most hunting and fishing license fees would rise under the bill. For instance, adult deer licenses would go from $26 to $30 and adult fishing licenses would rise to $17 to $22.

Lifetime fishing license fees would rise from $383 to $508 and lifetime deer hunting licenses from $573 to $656 for people 16 to 50 years old.

The fee increases are smaller than proposed by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. However, the House did not originally approve any increases.

McNamara said that he must work to get enough House votes to pass the bill. Some Republicans will not go along with a bill raising fees, so he said he will have to make sure there are enough Democrats on his side.

Outdoors groups asked the state to increase hunting and fishing fees because a state fund the fees feed is going broke. That fund helps animal habitat, which outdoors groups say is critical to continue to provide good hunting and fishing.

“We must keep this quality high,” Ingebrigtsen said. “Minnesota is a state that defines itself, and is defined by, the quality of its outdoor recreation.”

The game and fish fund would be in debt by next year if nothing is done, the Department of Natural Resources says.

The two latest bills and a third one provide funds to fight invasive species, such as Asian carp that are moving north into Minnesota.

A bill that spends sales taxes that voters increased in 2008 for outdoors and arts projects is headed for the governor with almost $100 million. It includes $8.5 million to build barriers to keep carp from advancing and $4 million to launch a University of Minnesota program to research invasive species.

The measure, known as the legacy bill, also would spend $15 million on forests, $31 million on wetlands and $28 million on habitat work.

The legacy bill passed the Senate 61-4 and the House 75-56 Thursday and awaits Dayton’s signature to become law.

Also in the compromise bills are provisions to:

– Continue sales of hunting and fishing licenses even if a budget impasse forces a government shutdown like last year.

– Increase snowmobile state trail fees from $15 to $35.

– Set a $10.50 license fee for canoes, kayaks, sailboards, paddle board, paddle boats and rowing shells longer than 10 feet.

– Require many public shooting ranges in the Twin Cities area to be open at least four times a year for youth shooting class members.

– Allow remote-controlled decoys to hunt migratory waterfowl and mourning doves.

– Allow disabled hunters to use a mounted gun or other device to help discharge a firearm or use a bow.

– Let local governments kill beavers that cause damage to government property.

– Establish a course in preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species, especially dealing with moving of boats from one body of water to another. A boat owner who completes the course would get a decal that would be needed before a boat could be moved.

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