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Don Davis / Forum Communications Co., Published April 23 2012

License fee increases closer, but not yet law

ST. PAUL – Minnesota hunters and anglers could get their wish to pay higher license fees, but some House Republicans must be convinced first.

“I think it is do-able,” Rep. Denny McNamara said of getting enough votes from fellow representatives, but it will be a tough job.

Supporters of the increase need to help, McNamara said. He called for rank-and-file sportsmen and women to contact their legislators and urge them to support increased fees.

The higher fees would be used to fund fish and game habitat improvements and fight invasive species such as Asian carp.

Senators Monday approved a bill 36-30 that includes raising most hunting and fishing license fees after Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, told them 60 hunting and fishing organizations support the increases.

“This is not a tax, this is a fee,” he said, so people who do not hunt and fish would not pay more.

Included in the bill is a provision to allow lower-cost licenses for lower limits. With that license, a Minnesotan could catch up to three walleyes a day instead of the six allowed under a full license.

The Senate vote came hours after about 75 anglers rallied in favor of the bill in the Capitol rotunda.

“We need to come down here to convince our legislators to raise the game and fish fees,” Greg Kvale of Baxter said.

Holding fishing rods topped with signs demanding, “Raise hunting and fishing fees now,” the anglers made up a rare gathering of people who asked government to increase how much they pay.

McNamara cheered for the Senate to increase fees, something the House did not approve in its game and fish bill. He said it should survive negotiations to reconcile the two bills.

McNamara said he and other fee increase supporters have their work cut out to convince representatives, especially Republicans, that the action is a good thing.

Ingebrigtsen’s game and fish bill also includes provisions to:

E Send 50 cents per license, for $1 million a year, to the school trust fund for the state’s school districts.

E Divert some of the fee increase to farmers for livestock that wolves injure or kill.

E Allow wolf hunting and trapping seasons. An attempt to delay the seasons five years lost 40-26.

E Continue sale of fishing and hunting licenses in the event of a future government shutdown.

E Require the state natural resources commissioner to consult with American Indian tribes, wildlife groups and other organizations before establishing a wolf season.

Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, offered and then withdrew an amendment to move up the state fishing opener a week. Most involved in the discussion said it is now too late to make the move, which would have set the opener for May 5.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.