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Wisconsin DNR looking to raise fees to help support programs

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Lawmakers are skeptic, while experts believe outdoors people would embrace idea.

There’s a mixed response to a proposal from the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources to raise fees that cover costs of wardens, fish stocking and other activities.

Some lawmakers have expressed skepticism about the higher costs but George Mayer, with the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, says the idea has merit, partially because DNR programs need some financial boost and money from the state’s general fund simply won’t be there.

“It is very difficult to obtain general fund revenue, just because of the many, important comparative uses that fund is used for,” he said.

Besides higher hunting and fishing fees, the DNR has also recommended mandatory registrations for canoes and kayaks, along with fees for those who simply hike through state natural wildlife areas. 

“It’s been over 12-13 years since we’ve had a hunting/fishing license increase in the state,” Mayer said. “I think most hunters would support a reasonable license fee increase, if in fact there are commitments that it should be used for increasing fish and wildlife habitat and conversational law enforcement.”

The stall in raising fees for over a decade may seem great to those saving money, but it isn’t helping in the long run.

“There’s been a tendency in the legislature to not increase taxes or license fees,” Mayer said, “and eventually, at some point in time, that hurts the programs.”

The DNR says further staffing cuts among wardens may be coming without higher fees.

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