Department seeking more revenue to support its education efforts
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Sept. 8, 2017) — The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission unanimously recommended that the department increase prices for some resident Kentucky hunting and fishing licenses.
The Commission is the guiding body for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. It took the action during its September quarterly meeting. It will be the first resident license price increase in more than a decade, and the first increase of the senior and disabled sportsman's licenses since their inceptions in 1999.
The Commission recommends all hunting, fishing and boating regulations for approval by the General Assembly and approves all expenditures by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. All recommendations must be approved by legislators before they become law.
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife relies primarily on license sales and federal excise taxes from the sale of hunting and fishing equipment for its revenue. It does not receive state General Fund money, such as those derived from income taxes or property taxes. The Department manages more than 600,000 acres for public use and stocks nearly 10 million fish each year. Hunting, fishing, boating and wildlife watching generate an estimated $5.9 billion to Kentucky's economy each year.
The Commission's recommendation includes resident hunting licenses, fishing licenses, combination hunting/fishing licenses, senior and disabled sportsman's licenses and joint fishing licenses for spouses.
"Periodic license price increases are necessary to keep pace with inflation and general costs of living," said Commission Chairman Jimmy Bevins. "We usually project that an increase will last five years, but solid fiscal management historically has allowed us to make them last much longer."
The Department's last three resident rate changes happened in 1992, 1999 and 2007. License and permit fees for non-residents increased to help offset rising operational costs in 2014, but resident fees remained unchanged at the time.
Commission members said they took the action to help offset the rising costs of operating the Department's three summer camps and the Salato Wildlife Education Center. In addition, increased revenue also will be utilized for increased conservation law enforcement efforts across the Commonwealth.
The three summer camps annually graduate more than 5,000 youth. The Salato Wildlife Education Center, located on the main Kentucky Fish and Wildlife campus, hosts more than 50,000 visitors each year.
"These programs are one main reason why Kentucky continues to see robust participation in hunting and fishing despite decreases seen in surrounding states," said Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Gregory K. Johnson. "Our children are our future sportsmen and sportswomen, and our future leaders.
"These license increases help the Department maintain a commitment and solid investment in outdoor education of our youth," said Johnson. "Revenue also will support a more complete law enforcement presence across the state, and improved law enforcement recruitment and retention."
"We operate almost entirely from user fees derived from hunting and fishing license sales, and federal excise taxes generated by the sale of hunting, fishing and shooting equipment and ammunition," said Bevins. "Other Kentucky state agencies are largely funded by General Fund tax dollars."
"The new rates for residents would not happen until the 2018 license year," said Bevins, "so that means we will have made our last increase last for 11 years – more than twice the original projection."
The Commission voted to increase a resident hunting license from its current $20 to $27, a resident fishing license from $20 to $23, a combination resident hunting/fishing license from $30 to $42 and the resident joint fishing license for spouses from $36 to $42.
Currently, the senior and disabled sportsman's licenses provide $165 worth of licenses and permits for $5. A resident sportsman's license cost $95.
Under the Commission action, the senior and disabled sportsman's licenses would increase to $18. In 2007, Kentucky sold 90,184 of these licenses. Kentucky's aging society caused that number to reach 120,426 by 2016, with that number projected to continue increasing.
"We surveyed senior and disabled license holders across Kentucky and had a strong response," said Bevins. "Nearly three quarters said they would continue to purchase a license even if it was as much as $20.
"I believe the support from our seniors is a direct reflection of their own memories and experiences," he said. "They remember when all deer hunting in Kentucky was prohibited prior to 1956 because there were very few deer, and when there were no wild turkey, elk or bears, or fish hatcheries to raise and stock fish.
"Today our fish and wildlife populations are healthy and abundant, and our management program is a national model. Our seniors know better than most that our conservation camps and school programs are helping to leave a better natural Kentucky for their children and grandchildren," Bevins said.