PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Beginning in January 2016 and continuing over the next 5 years hunting, angling and commercial fishing fees will go up dramatically.
A consulting firm hired by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates about 9,000 fewer people will buy fishing licenses because of the fee hike. Another 3500 fewer hunters are also predicted.
“They’re going to take honest people and make outlaws out of us,” sportsman Jack Doner said.Charters and sportsmen
The price hikes strike fear into charter businesses, including Garibaldi Charters.
“We have deck hands that work for us, our captains that work for us, they will all make less money because (there are) less people coming,” said Linda Buell of Garibaldi Charters. She noted the hikes will also affect those who filet the fish, cook the crab, run the hotels and work in the restaurants.
Tamara Mautner, who also owns Garibaldi, said a fishing and a shellfish license cost $27.50. “That’s almost 3 times as much in licenses as you would be paying in Washington.”
Beginning in 2016, the cost of a deer tag will go from $54 to $58. A trout license will jump from $33 to $38. For salmon, the cost will balloon from $59 to $73 – and in 2020, that tag will cost $90.
Sportsmen who spoke with KOIN 6 News said they usually buy a variety of tags, permits and licenses. They said the fees add up quickly and have gotten out of hand.
“I want them to know we’re fed up with it and if you can’t manage our game then find somebody else that can,” said Doner.Lawmakers
Wayne Krieger, who retired from the Oregon State Police-ODFW division, is now an elected state representative. The Republican from Gold Beach said the budget issues at ODFW have been brewing for a while.
“I think they saw this coming but it didn’t alarm them enough,” Krieger told KOIN 6 News. “In other words they didn’t take an action to accommodate that change, which was a decrease in participation in hunting and angling.”
He said he’s getting concerned the state is “getting close” to pricing working-class families out of hunting and fishing.
As the number of fishing and hunting licenses has declined, the ODFW has become increasingly dependent on those fees to support the department.
ODFW biologists estimated they spend up to 80% of their time on consulting work for other agencies – without billing for that time.
“They do that consultation for the purpose of making sure that whatever project they are working on doesn’t have an adverse effect to the environment and fish and wildlife habitat values,” Krieger said. “But nobody from those agencies pays it. The hunter and fisher are paying it.”
Curt Melcher, the director of the ODFW, said there is truth to the fact hunters and anglers bear the brunt of the cost, “when you look at the agency budget and the way fee dollars get spent.”
The legislature gave the agency a 71% increase in general fund money over the last 2-year period.
“As we move forward, though, we almost doubled the general fund support in this current budget, which is lowering that burden on hunters and anglers,” Melcher said. He admitted the fee increases are borne by the sportsmen.
The non-profit Nature Conservancy of Oregon got behind a team of bills hoping to get the ODFW on track in an effort to “diversify and stabilize the funding for this agency into the future,” said Amanda Rich. “We knew that was important.”
A task force is being created to secure ODFW funding outside of fees for hunting and fishing.
The price of youth passes was reduced in an effort to encourage them to hunt and fish. But the fee hikes will likely cause an overall drop in participants.
For people like Linda Buell of Garibaldi Charters, “It’s a sad thing.”