Minnesota has some of the best outdoor opportunities in the country. Mother Nature gave us a uniquely diverse canvas, but world-class outdoor recreation exists because the state's anglers and hunters are passionate about the outdoors and support it with their time, commitment and dollars.
Minnesotans will see a decline in the quality of hunting and fishing opportunities if proposed budget reductions are enacted.
Fewer dollars for natural resources will mean a 20 percent reduction in lake stocking efforts; declines in deer management and research; and more time required to deal with nuisance wildlife or wildlife damage complaints.
DNR spends dollars from hunting and fishing license sales to manage, maintain and improve abundant and healthy fish and wildlife populations and the habitats that support them. That work – more than anything else – provides Minnesota a solid foundation for outdoor recreation.
But those costs have risen since the last license fee increase on March 1, 2013. Without a modest increase for some fees in 2017, the primary fund that finances game and fish activities and management is projected to dip below zero by July 1, 2019.
If that happens, DNR will need to implement reductions that will negatively impact the quantity and quality of hunting, fishing and conservation officer enforcement throughout Minnesota.
Your license dollars pay for fish and wildlife management, public land infrastructure maintenance and habitat management that DNR fish and wildlife staff perform across Minnesota.
Their work creates some of the nation's most sought-after outdoor experiences. You'll find them fishing or boating on one of Minnesota's 5,500 fishing lakes, paddling or wading its 18,000 miles of fishable rivers and streams or afoot in field or forest at one of its 1,500 Wildlife Management Areas.
Use the selection boxes below to discover how the biologists who staff area fisheries and wildlife offices across Minnesota use their knowledge and expertise to manage fish, wildlife and habitat for the benefit of 1.5 million anglers, 600,000 hunters and 500,000 bird and wildlife watchers.
Fish, wildlife and basic day-to-day aspects of habitat management in Minnesota is a user-funded, user-benefit system. A coalition of more than 50 hunting, fishing and outdoor organizations are supporting the 2017 fee increase proposal because high-quality fishing and hunting is recreation worth paying for.
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Citizens who oversee how and why DNR spends its fish and wildlife dollars recommended in 2016 that DNR "develop a comprehensive package of funding, including license fee increases for fishing, hunting, ice shelters, and the like, which will ensure the solvency of the Game and Fish Fund for the next decade, without a reduction in the level of management effort."
The fund's foretasted deficit is not unexpected. Since 2012 and the last license fee increase, state and federal revenue experts have consistently projected it.
DNR already has made significant cuts in its wildlife and fisheries activities to remain solvent. Even with these cuts, the deficit still looms because costs rise over time but fees remain fixed.
Minnesota State Lottery and Legacy Amendment dollars are not available for basic year-to-year fish and wildlife management or conservation officer funding. Those dollars can only be used for specifically approved projects.
Since state law prohibits lottery and legacy dollars from paying the regular costs of doing fish, wildlife and habitat management and maintenance work across Minnesota, license fee dollars have to support the necessary and growing amount of work DNR staff must do to allow lottery and legacy funds to be put to use.
Hunting and fishing license dollars are kept separate from other DNR funds in a dedicated state treasury account called the Game and Fish Fund. These dollars can only be used for fish, wildlife, law enforcement and certain other related activities.
State law requires that the Legislature allocate dollars from this special state fund to DNR for specific expenses detailed in a governor's budget request. DNR cannot access dollars from this fund without legislative authorization and gubernatorial approval.
As DNR spends these dollars, groups of citizens who serve on the fisheries, wildlife and budget oversight committees monitor why and how the DNR spends your license dollars on game, fish and habitat management and maintenance.
On the average, hunting and fishing license fees are adjusted about once every five years. A 2017 fee adjustment for some but not all licenses would mean that only three adjustments – occurring in 2001, 2012 and 2017 – will have provided solid fish and wildlife funding for the past 25 years.
Maintaining an adequate flow of license dollars allows Minnesota to get more bang for its conservation buck. Federal excise taxes paid on certain types of outdoor gear and marine fuels are allocated to each state based on the number of people who buy hunting and fishing licenses and the geographic size of the state. Minnesota deposits its federal dollars into the Game and Fish Fund.
For every $100 Minnesota spends on allowed game and fish expenses, the federal government reimburses $75, effectively allowing DNR to spend three times more than it could if it only used money from license sales for fish, game and habitat management and maintenance.
Even with the proposed increases for fishing and deer licenses, Minnesota's license prices would retain their competitive value and mid-range cost among Midwestern states.