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TJ Jerke, Forum News Service, Published February 18 2013

ND House, Senate both OK bills to increase hunting fees in state

BISMARCK – A second bill to increase hunting and fishing fees in North Dakota received its stamp of approval from the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday, similar to a bill passed in the House.

Senate Bill 2231, sponsored by Sen. Lonnie Laffen, R-Grand Forks, is like House Bill 1130. Both have support from hunters and conservationists around the state as flooding and unusual weather have decreased wildlife populations and the number of hunting and fishing licenses sold. The department relies on license sales for 56 percent of its revenue, which has not been keeping up with expenses for the department.

SB2231 would raise resident small-game hunting fees from $6 to $15; nonresident from $85 to $100; resident big game from $20 to $30 and nonresident big game from $200 to $250, among others.

Laffen’s bill has no consistent increase for each license, unlike HB1130, which increases each fee by 10 to 20 percent across the board.

The Senate bill increases would generate about $4.8 million over the next biennium.

The House version, sponsored by Rep. Todd Porter, R-Mandan, is pegged to generate about $5.85 million over the coming biennium.

One of the two bills will likely be killed and combined with the other during the legislative session.

Game and Fish Director Terry Steinwand said resident fishing license fees haven’t increased since 1996 and the last big-game license increase goes back to 1993.

“It won’t amount to a box of shells or quarter tank of gas,” said Sen. Phil Murphy, D-Portland, a co-sponsor of the bill. “We need to keep managers of resources viable so we have something to hunt. We have heard nobody opposed to this, everyone thinks it’s time.”

Verifying residency

A system to verify residency for hunting and fishing licenses sold online may be implemented by April 1, 2014.

House Bill 1161 was passed by the House on Monday. If it passes the Senate, $32,000 would be appropriated to implement a new cross-checking system to the current online registration.

There is nothing in place to verify proof of residency.

Porter said law enforcement officers, mainly in western North Dakota, have seen many with resident hunting and fishing licenses, but carried an out-of-state license.