From State of Michigan Rep. Mike Shirkey of Clark Lake
Our office has recently received a fair number of inquiries regarding changes to our state’s hunting and fishing licenses. Since, on the surface, this could come across as simply another government spending increase, the question deserves further explanation.
House Bill 4668 passed the House, with strong bipartisan support, modernizing Michigan’s hunting and fishing license laws which have not been materially changed since 1997. The primary objective of the changes was to streamline point of purchase (in store) processes. Additionally, there was a major consolidation of licenses, from 227 down to 42, and selective increases in certain fees, including out of state licenses. Also included in the legislation is the creation of an appointed commission, specifically of representatives from hunting, fishing, and conservation organizations throughout the state, to provide direction and hands on management of how license proceeds are used to educate and promote conservation and wild life management, including more of a focus on youth programs.
Virtually EVERY hunting, fishing, and conservation organization in our state not only supported these changes but strongly advocated for them. I had originally intended to vote no on this bill. But after being contacted by these groups it became clear this was something different than simply raising fees. The fee increases are clearly directed for use specifically in the areas of promoting and protecting hunting, fishing, and conservation ideals and rights and cannot get washed in general state spending. Further, the new commission is taking over, from the DNR, the education and promotion efforts which have not been satisfactory to those of us who cherish hunting and fishing in Michigan.
Lastly, the legislation specifically limits how much new state land can be purchased by the DNR, freeing up more funds for those services and programs associated with existing land management. It also creates the opportunity for hiring 41 additional conservation officers in this budget year, something hunters and conservation groups have been strongly advocating for.
Since this legislation directs more of our license fees specifically to things that benefit hunting and fishing, removes some of the consternation and frustration of what was becoming a cumbersome licensing process, and puts into the hands of fellow outdoors men and women more resources to help promote and protect our precious and unique Michigan assets, I determined it was legislation worthy of support. Now we must do the additional work of making sure we deliver on these promises.