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Danielle Nordine and Don Davis, State Capitol Bureau, Published February 11 2012

Fees likely to rise as lawmakers deal with outdoor issues

ST. PAUL – Many legislators are thinking about the outdoors while working inside the Minnesota Capitol.

Many want to allow gray wolf hunting, expand a fight against invading Asian carp and make other changes in outdoors-related laws. Among those changes could be raising hunting and fishing license fees to pay for other outdoors needs.

“Hunting and fishing licenses have gone 11 years with no real increase,” said Rep. Denny McNamara, who chairs the House environment committee.

Minnesota’s Game and Fish Fund is expected to be in debt by 2013 if nothing changes. Increasing fees could help balance the fund, said McNamara, R-Hastings.

Fee increases on boat licenses to help fight invasive aquatic species also are being considered, he said.

Most revenue for the state Department of Natural Resources’ invasive species account comes from surcharges on watercraft and nonresident fishing licenses.

Legislators need to work with the DNR to determine how much the increase should be based on what they want the agency to do, said Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, who authored the fee increase bill. Needed funding will vary depending on the level of aquatic invasive species prevention and enforcement, DNR officials said.

McNamara’s Senate counterpart, Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, also wants to raise fees. “There is nothing wrong with doing the right thing in an election year.”

Fighting invasive species such as Asian carp takes money, the senator said. “We are going to have to look at raising fees to pay for that.”

Controlling the migration of Asian carp into the area will remain a high priority, McNamara said. The Legislature will search for ways to slow the movement of the fish, including installing electric barriers in rivers to stop the carp’s advance from the south.

Some legislators hope to establish a hunting and trapping season for the gray wolf. The animal was recently taken off the federal endangered species list in the Great Lakes region.

“We anticipate setting that up as a game animal and establishing parameters for hunting,” McNamara said.

Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, introduced a bill that would create a wolf hunting and trapping season. Sen. Tom Saxhaug, R-Grand Rapids, is the chief author of a senate counterpart. The DNR also proposed a bill of its own on the topic.

Minnesota has about 3,000 wolves, according to DNR. The population has been stable for a decade and needs to stay above 1,600 to ensure the species’ survival, the agency reported.

Danielle Nordine and Don Davis report for Forum Communications Co.