Proposed legislation restructuring the state’s hunting and fishing licenses and raising fees charged on recreational and commercial license-holders apparently is nearing passage in Baton Rouge. It’s going to cost more to play in the Sportsman’s Paradise.
As the 2021 Louisiana Legislative Session winds to a close, House Bill 691, which cleared the House on May 18, was being considered this past week in the Senate. The state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries asked for the measure by Rep. Tony Bacala, R-Prairieville, to help raise millions of dollars more each year for the department and plug budget gaps.
The session, which began April 12, is scheduled to end at 6 p.m. Thursday.
HB 691 was heard in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and on Thursday by the Senate Committee on Finance. Amendments were added to the bill that initially failed to pass in the House by a vote of 68-28 for HB691 because it needed two-thirds vote in the 105-member chamber. Bacala agreed to a series of amendments that cut out some fee hikes and, good news for resident outdoorsmen, lengthened the phase-in period for the modifications and the bill passed 79-20, thus sending it to the Senate.
“It’s still a very good bill, and we’re trying to continue to have Wildlife and Fisheries fully funded without having to battle every year,” Bacala told The Advocate after the critical second vote by lawmakers May 18.
He also said the fee hike is necessary because LDWF cannot continue to rely on money from the Conservation Fund, which holds mineral revenues from oil and gas drilling on Wildlife Management Areas.
“When life was good with those mineral revenues, they stacked it away in a savings account, and as it became more lean, they were taking money out, and now the savings account is practically depleted,” Bacala said a WWL.com story May 20.
Without fee increases, the state would have to take money from the general fund to pay for the operations of LDWF, he said.
“That’s something we can’t do, that’s a bridge that can’t be built, a raise that can’t be given,” he said.
The Prairieville legislator extended the remaining fee hikes so half the increases would start June 1, 2022, and the other half would begin June 1, 2024. The House also removed license hikes for commercial shrimpers and for the wild crawfish industry.
Boat registration cost increases are included in the bill. One hundred percent of the revenue will go into the Aquatic Plant Control Fund, according to the LDWF’s “The Price of Paradise,” which outlines the proposed license restructure.
For boats 14-foot or less and 14-foot, 1-inch, to 17-foot, 11-inch, the cost goes to a flat of $36. Boats 18-foot to 26-foot will go to $57. Boats 26-foot, 1-inch, to 38-foot, will go to $78.
What are some other increases and comparisons to other states?
A basic resident fishing license, now $9.50, will cost $17. Texas’ is $30, Arkansas’ is $10.50, Mississippi’s is $10, Alabama’s is $14.05 and Florida’s is $17.
For those who want a resident saltwater fishing license, the permit will go from $13 to $15 for a total of $32. Texas’ combo is $40, Mississippi’s is $20, Alabama’s is $23.35 and Florida’s is $32.
Basic resident hunting licenses will increase from $15 to $20. Texas’ is $25, Arkansas’ is $10, Mississippi’s is $12.29, Alabama’s is $17.70 and Florida’s is $17.
Resident big game deer hunting licenses will go from $14 to $15 for a total of $35 (including the basic resident hunting license). Texas’ combo is $22, Arkansas’ is $25, Mississippi’s is $34.58, Alabama is $28.20 and Florida’s is $32.
Turkey hunters face a resident wild turkey license going from $5.50 to $12 (eliminating the resident big game license) for a total of $32 (including the basic resident hunting license), of which $7.50 will be dedicated to the Louisiana Wild Turkey Fund. Texas’ combo is $32, Arkansas’ is $24, Mississippi’s is $25 ($34.58 for the fall season), Alabama’s is $28.20 and Florida’s is $32.
Resident duck hunters will pay more, too, to enjoy their sport, from $5.50 to $12 for a total of $32 (including the basic resident hunting license). Ten dollars will be dedicated to the Louisiana Duck Stamp Fund, which increases funds available for waterfowl breeding grounds. Texas’ and Arkansas’ combo are $32 each, Mississippi’s is $24.58, Alabama’s $28.20 and Florida’s $22.
What won’t cost you more is the lifetime hunting and fishing resident license, which originally had a proposed increase to $1,000.
But Rep. Game Firment, R-Pollock, objected to raising the cost of the lifetime hunting and fishing license for residents. The combination lifetime hunting and fishing license now is $500, or $300 each for a lifetime hunting license or a lifetime fishing license.
“It seems like a pretty dramatic increase in the lifetime license. I can tell you there’s not going to be many people in my district can afford that at $1,000,” Firment told The Advocate on May 18.
Bacala stripped the cost increase for the lifetime hunting and fishing license.
DON SHOOPMAN is outdoors editor of The Daily Iberian.