MUCC’s Position on the License Fee Proposal: Final Summary

In 2007, when the Department of Natural Resources presented a doomsday scenario that would see massive cuts in programs and staffing in an attempt to increase license fees, there was great damage done.

As it turned out, the Department had a significant budget surplus. Was the surplus simply an accounting error? A lack of public understanding? It’s very difficult to know with any certainty. But there was one certainty: The process and end result did tremendous damage to the DNR’s relationship with those who supported a fee increase and the hunting, fishing and trapping community.

Today, a new license fee package is on the table, presented by Gov. Rick Snyder as part of his 2014 budget. And it’s time for all involved to learn from the lessons provided in 2007 and move forward.

Throughout the week, MUCC has provided background information and perspective on the approach it has taken in evaluating the current license proposal.

MUCC is very much in support of a simpler, smarter license structure and system. We feel that the Governor’s proposal is indeed simpler and smarter.

MUCC is also very much in support of sustainable funding for conservation so long as the funding is used appropriately and the expenditures are presented openly and clearly to the public. In evaluating this, MUCC shared a number of reports and programs that the DNR has adopted since 2007. Why were those reports and procedures put into place? Because MUCC and other organizations insisted that they were.

While no one has to forget what has happened in the past, it would be foolish to insist that we continue to live in it. What happened can not be changed. What happens next can be.

Michigan has not had a fee increase since 1996. Anyone who drives to work knows that the cost of doing business has certainly increased over the past 17 years.

The expectations of hunters, anglers and trappers have also changed. We demand more out of the woods and water now than before. It’s unreasonable to expect more without putting more in. That’s just a simple fact of life.

As part of the Governor’s license proposal, a number of outcomes have been laid out in an effort to show exactly where additional funding will be spent. Some of the highlights are:

  • Increase educational/outreach/public safety contacts by hiring additional conservation officers
  • Increase technical assistance for fisheries habitat improvement on cold-water streams
  • Increase creel surveys and assessments on inland lakes & streams
  • Increase outreach to anglers that fish for perch, bluegill, and bass
  • Increase rearing and stocking of fish by addressing infrastructure needs in our hatcheries
  • Provide grants to stakeholders to increase fisheries habitat in inland lakes and streams
  • Increase acres of public game areas receiving habitat management or maintenance
  • Provide grants to stakeholders to increase acres receiving habitat management or maintenance
  • Enhance the Retail Sales System to create a better license buying experience
  • Expand recruitment and retention programs for hunters and anglers
  • Open additional service centers to the public and increase hours that service centers are open to the public
  • Increase acres of state forests receiving wildlife habitat management or maintenance
  • Provide grants to stakeholders to increase acres of state forests receiving wildlife habitat management or maintenance
  • Pay property taxes to local governments for access to public lands

Take another look at the list. Do those outcomes reflect the things that matter to you as a hunter, angler or trapper? Are those areas that you feel the DNR needs to improve upon?

MUCC has considered the list carefully. It has worked with members and stakeholder groups to determine whether the funding is being directed properly. It has also insisted that the Department develop business plans and evaluate how, where and why it chooses to invest resources. It has also asked that the Department make those strategic plans public and that annual reports be released to help all users see where their money is spent.

The DNR has complied with those requests.

Currently, MUCC and other members of the Conservation Coalition are working on additional details of the package. Some of the areas of consideration include:

  • More equitable division of any new revenues between fisheries and wildlife
  • Increased focus on management-related expenditures
  • Maintaining protection of existing restricted funds
  • Options for creating a special stamp for additional species or habitat specific stamps
  • Discounted licenses for juniors, in line with the proposed senior discounts
  • Multi-species package licenses for adults, juniors, and seniors

These discussions are ongoing and will continue throughout the legislative process.

And, most importantly, the Governor’s proposal includes a 5-year sunset. This sunset allows us to make changes in the future if the results are not satisfactory. How will we know they are using our money, not only according to its intended purposes but towards the highest and best uses? Only time will tell. But we have worked with them to set up the processes and plans for us to keep an eye on it. And we can assure you that we are watching.

After considering all of the information and countless hours of research, fact-finding and discussion with its members and partners, Michigan United Conservation Clubs has lent its support to the Governor’s license proposal. There is still some work that needs to be done to create a plan that we are completely satisfied with.

But there is no question that long-term, sustainable funding for conservation is of critical importance. And the time has come to learn from the past, put it behind us and support a better outdoors for tomorrow.

Click HERE to download a copy of MUCC’s final report on the license proposal.

  • Gail

    Is all the money still going into the general fund? That is what we are opposed to as it has in the past

    • Amy Trotter

      All of the hunting and fishing license fees go into the Game and Fish Fund, which is constitutionally protected since 2006. They may only be used for fisheries and wildlife purposes.

  • Tracy Hickmott

    instead of raising our fees, make everyone who uses the nature pay. make them buy a passport to carry with them while cross country sking, hiking etc.then every one would put in their share.not just the hunters and fishermen paying for all to use gods country

  • Robert

    Gail , That’s exactly what I want to know. If it goes for hunting , fishing, and trapping then ok.

  • Aaron Fulton

    If all the money goes to DNR Law Enforcement is the only way i will support this, as far as I’am concerned wildlife division is a waste of funds they have cost me thousand of dollars over the last five years do to there inaction

  • David Lawrence

    Gee, I am shocked that MUCC supports a license fee increase. After all they did their due diligence in 07, didn’t they? I think the bottom line is that neither party, MUCC and DNR, that supports this proposal have any credibility. Government has to learn to right size itself with the revenue they have. All of the power brokers are for this so I guess we are getting an increase. What a shame.

  • RogerW

    I know we need to pay for what we use as a hunters and fishermen. But as a retired person I am already having to pay extra taxes and fees already. Then with the looming increase in the gas tax, registration fees and the possible increase in the sales tax.

    Doubling the licensing fee is going to hit me hard.

    Don’t get me wrong, I will pay for the licenses.

    But I need to know that it is going for the intended purpose. Not to the general fund were some politician or fat cat can use the money for their pet project or god knows what.

    • Amy Trotter

      All of the hunting and fishing license fees go into the Game and Fish
      Fund, which is constitutionally protected since 2006. They may only be
      used for fisheries and wildlife purposes.

      If you are a senior over 65, there is a 60% discount built in as well.

  • James Avery

    As a hunter, boater/fisherman and snowmobiler. I think it is about time that the cross county skier, biker, hiker and horseback rides or anyone else that uses state funded tails or land start paying there share to help with state funding and overhead. Don’t get me wrong, I am in full support of any increase license fees, It’s about time that the sportsmen and sportswomen of this state starts getting help from the rest of the people that use the state land and trails.

  • Dr Dave

    These guys (and galls) are doing a hard job well. Keep them under the microscope but as Red Green says,
    “we’re all in this together”. Be a TEAM!

  • woodsman

    If the increase goes for wildlife then ya we should pay for our sport But the other people who use the State and Federal land in Michigan should pay too They always put the burden on the sportmen and woman of Michigan. They need to make all people pay to use The state and federal land your hikers horsebach rider ect Then the out of stater need to pay more go to the western states to hunt deer and the cost of a licences it cost over $500 for a tag then its a draw

  • Patrick Hogan

    Dont the Hikers and XC skiers have to have a “car passport” to park even at state land parking lots?

    • Amy Trotter

      Yes, that is correct. You now have to have the $11 recreation passport to use state forest land parking lots and trailheads.

  • dlarsen

    First, it amazes me that so many responding forget grammar and how to use punctuation. Do you realize how hard it is to decipher what you are actually trying to say?
    Second, I don’t have a problem paying an increase in license fees, but I would be more in favor of decreasing fees for seniors, juniors, disabled, etc. and having the increase for those in the 18-60ish range. Personally, I don’t feel vets should ever have to pay a fee for hunting/fishing.
    Third, increase the fees GRADUALLY over a period of X years, instead of all at once.

    • Amy Trotter

      active and 100% disabled vets will be free under this plan. There is discussion among legislators about dropping the disability threshold.

  • Tom M.

    This plan wants to increase access. We have piers that used to have thousands of people per day fishing perch already in place. Restrooms facilities already in place. The only thing missing is the Perch. Alewives eat larval perch the DNR admits that, yet the plan is to keep alewives dominant. What good is good access to any fishing spot if fishing sucks? We have many areas with good access, yet not being used because fishing sucks. People go fishing to catch fish. With the restoration of Perch and Walleye fishing (and loss of alewives) Saginaw bay gets many times the fishing effort (year round) than all the salmon fishing ports in West Michigan get combined.
    With the DNR save the alewife survey less than 580 people indicated they wanted to keep fishing for salmon from all 4 states. How is this the majority? Increasing alewives destroys the natural/native fisheries. Alewives eat zooplankton and native larval fish, same as Asian Carp. How is this plan protecting our natural resources?

  • old and not wiser

    if they raise fees we buy one anterless tag and share a buck tag with family members, just like the old days.

    • knowitall

      Most didn’t violate in the OLD days either ! If you can’t afford a few dollars for a hunting lic. , then find another sport to pursue.Poaching is STEALING !! from what I love and from my children and grandchildren. You probably spend more on beer in one night at deer season than the price of a license ?If they increase the price of beer,I’ll bet most would pay it and never say a word ? God bless.

  • Buckshot

    My biggest complaint with the license dollars is hunters have purchased a lot of the state land out there and yet they are still making the land we purchased “safety zones” for campers around the campgrounds. The 450ft safety zones are clearly larger now especially where I grew up in Lapeer County at Hadley/Metamora Recreation Area. I also travel to hunt pheasant out west and we are very low on our out of state license. S Dakota I pay $210 for two five day blocks for small game. MI charges $69.00 for the entire season. Want to know where your grouse and pheasant are? I know people who come to hunt grouse and woodcock for weeks at a time. Our grouse numbers are in the toilet and DNR cares very little. Thank God for the RGS.

    • knowitall

      Grouse numbers go up and down in a cycle and as far as what the few out of state hunters bag,it’s very little compared to most local hunters who know the areas they hunt better than most who, from out of state and have only a week to scout and locate birds,will harvest. The additional money they spend for food ,gas ,license fees,motels,sporting goods etc. is also good the the economy.I’m not saying that the DNR should not do more in habitat ,and mng. of our grouse here,I too am a bird hunter and would love to see more game birds to hunt,but I see some out of state hunters every years also and have talked with some and they are really on our side with the love to hunt these birds,and I will bet they are following the game laws ,which if not over harvested,will not hurt any of our bird numbers.A slight increase for everybody in fees is not going to stop me from hunting .In fact figure what it cost to go out for a night with dinner etc. with you and your wife ,and the $15.00 or so a YEAR isn’t much at all.A season even at the price of all the lic. I buy is only now about $70.00 and that covers most anything I can hunt or fish for a year. I pay more than that for a tank a gas that last a week if I’m lucky ? God bless.

    • Amy Trotter

      Under the new proposal, non-residents will have to pay $150 for their small game now. But then it will be proportionately cheaper for them to also hunt other species, because then they will only pay $20 per deer tag for example.

  • Garettwice

    Drop all fees for juniors and senior citizens. Get the kids interested in the licensed outdoor sports and they will continue to pursue them when it’s time for them to buy licenses. The senior citizens have already paid their dues., cut ’em some slack.
    As for the out-of-staters depleting our populations of licensed game, If those people didn’t come here at all, how much have we gained, or lost, in revenues or game? Charge them the same as a resident. The collateral reven-ues generated by them just being here will off-set what some people think we lost by not having much higher fees for them.
    GET ‘EM HERE. Let the bait and sport shops, the gas stations and the restaurants take their money.

    • Amy Trotter

      Senior licenses will still have the same 60% discount they currently do
      and Mentored Youth licenses for kids under 10 will stay the same.
      However, we (MUCC) are working with the DNR on adopting further
      discounts on juniors 10-17 still (they will still be allowed to fish for
      free though under the new plan).

  • Saul Goode

    I agree with James on the Biker and Hikers sharing some of the load.Find a sensable way for all of us who use these areas to contribute fairly.



    • Amy Trotter

      Seniors will still get the same 60% discount in the new license proposal. So the base license will be $4 and the deer tag will be $8.

  • Paul H.

    The annual Recreation Passport fee that you can voluntarily pay when you renew your vehicle registration is now required to use any state park, state forest recreation facility and state boat launch. This fee is what skiers, hikers, bikers and boaters requested to pay to use those facilities, and what the Legislature passed. So the issue of hunters and fishers paying for it all is now a moot point. Everyone is now paying their fair share, or be fined if caught not paying.

  • Carl Schardt

    I agree with the license increase in general, however there are a few points I differ on. Many of us in Southern Michigan have family that live in Northern Indiana and Ohio and they are finding it extremely more difficult to by the non resident licenses that make a deer camp or a vacation week of fishing a pleasant family experience. In Ohio a non resident buys a hunting license, then a deer permit, which cost close to Michigan’s current non-resident license, but an antlerless permit is only $15 or so apiece, so the hunter can bag his buck, plus a doe. In Michigan if the non resident is lucky enough to draw an antlerless permit, it cost him $138.00 and if he want to be able to have a shot at a buck, he has to pay another $138.00. I like the idea that some states do, charge the non resident what their home state charges non residents. I don’t mind the non resident’s, they provide a vast amount of revenue for local business. It’s a shame when fathers cannot deer hunt with their son’s and grandsons who have had to move closer to their jobs anymore because of the prohibitive cost of licensing.

    • Amy Trotter

      The new proposal is much like Ohio’s for non-residents. They would pay $150 for a base license (which will allow them to small game hunt too), then $20 for a buck or doe tag. So it would be only $190 for two deer tags for the non resident and they can small game hunt, compared to $276 for two deer tags now.

  • woodswalker

    i think if you raise fees all your doing is increasing poaching most people are having hard enough time just living that’s my 2 cents

  • WTF

    the link to the copy of the license proposal at the end of the article did not work (at least for me using 2 different computers) I could only read the 1st page. Anyone else have trouble with that? can I just see a chart of the new fee structure?

  • bob s

    Nothing is mentioned about senior licenses or Jr’s–will all catagories be the same price? Non resident should pay alot more, but people who own property should be considered a resident. The early seasons are very bad.

    • Amy Trotter

      Senior licenses will still have the same 60% discount they currently do and Mentored Youth licenses for kids under 10 will stay the same. However, we (MUCC) are working with the DNR on adopting further discounts on juniors 10-17 still (they will still be allowed to fish for free though under the new plan).

      • bob s

        THANKS Amy — I finally read the total article and found the info. oops

    • Jim T.

      No state that I know of allows non residents who are land owners to be considered residents. But…how about a nonresident land owner catogory with a reduced fee from the nonresident but higher than a resident. A good thought.

      • bob s

        That’s an idea Jim


    I totally agree with the proposed license fee increase. All Michigan should agree that our fees should be at least equal to our surrounding states. I feel that our highest priority should be to get more CO’s in the field. RW bennett

  • Jim

    They fooled MUCC again we need to go back to a simple licence were a sportsman licence even covers trapping and all fishing like it once did. DNR has again committed fraud misleading the public there should be a call for prison this time so it stops happening!

  • magman44

    I agree that MUCC has again just jumped on the fee increase bandwagon. The FreePress reported last week about how monies collected from mining and gas and oil natural resources could be diverted from a DNR fund to the general fund. With Snyders track record of increasing taxes on the common man, he would probably consider it an even trade, we pay more in fees to offset the loss. I for one can feel the pinch in my wallet these last few years. Increase hunting and fishing licenses, my buddies and I are already driving 2 and 3 to a vehicle to go north for deer and turkey camp due to gas prices. And if we drink beer or iced tea, we buy it mostly up north just like our other supplies. Would we stop hunting, No, but we would, sooner or later, have to start cutting back just like everyone else. I know of two guys who, due to low water levels and the price of gas won’t use their boats this year.

  • Dan

    It’s good to know that Michigan has not raised their fees
    since 1996 because wages in Michigan have not been raised either. I’m more concerned about the cost of living increasing than the cost of doing business. Michigan wants more money from its residents, but where are the residents
    supposed to get the money from? Fees should not go up unless wages go up. Plain and simple.

  • Saul Goode

    Mo money Mo money Mo money,where does it end? Lets price everyone out of the great outdoors!! Politicians do it again!! SAD!!

  • Paul Szymanski


    I’m sure by now everyone has had a chance to look over
    the new hunting and fishing licenses proposal. After looking at them
    myself and doing some figuring, I came to the conclusion they will do more harm to the DNR and sportsman than good.

    What happened to the idea of retaining the hunters and
    fishermen we have? What happened to wanting to get more people to

    Under our present fee system, a person who just hunts deer
    with one tag, and purchases the restricted fishing license pays $30 for
    both. Under the new proposal, this same privilege would cost that person
    $55. That is almost a 100% increase. I’d call this guy pretty much a take it or
    leave it guy, (I enjoy it, but maybe not enough to pay this price.) I always
    thought this was the guy we were trying to keep. I think it’s a pretty
    steep price for a guy to have to pay $25 just to try fishing, or $35 just to
    try deer hunting. Especially if he has a minimum wage job, to these people that
    $25 & $35 would probably be the equivalent of a $100 or so, compared to the
    people who are coming up with this stuff.

    I am also very
    much against being forced to buy a small game license if I don’t hunt small
    game. For three reasons; I should not be forced to purchase something I don’t
    want or need, it adds $10 to the price of a deer license, and if the DNR
    doesn’t have to produce small game to encourage people to buy a small game
    license, what incentive will they have for doing it? (CAN ANYBODY

    A dedicated sportsman who small game hunts, duck
    hunts, buys one deer tag, who fishes all pieces of fish, presently pays
    $65. Under the new proposal, that same sportsman will pay $55, $10 less
    then now. (What the hell ever happened to philosophy of play more pay more?
    It’s only fair.)

    Now a person like me, and I’m sure most of you who are dedicated
    sportsman, who can afford and would pay more, end up paying less. Do more, pay
    less, do less, pay more: I’d like to find a restaurant like that. (You
    know, eat more, pay less-eat less, pay more.)

    Now as far as simplifying the license system and reducing
    the number of licenses; simple yes, everyone pays $55, no matter what you do.
    As far as the number of licenses, they say presently they have 200+types
    of licenses that the sportsman has to deal with. Show them to me. I went
    over and over my fishing and hunting guide and the most I can come up with is
    42, including the sportsman card. And out of all of them, all that they have eliminated
    is the duck stamp and the restricted fishing license, all at the expense of the
    lower end sportsman.

    Oh, and now seeing how everyone has
    to buy a small game license and everyone who fishes must buy an all species
    license, we are going to have to use some of this new revenue to pay for
    surveys to find out how many small game hunter and trout fisherman we have
    because the number of small game and fishing licenses sold will no longer give
    us that information. Great way to spend that new revenue.

    As for myself, I would really feel guilty when I’m fishing brook trout in a
    stream where I know they are planted, that some poor guy or gal working at
    WalMart for minimum wage, that doesn’t fish trout was forced to contribute to
    this fishery. All he wanted to do was take his wife and kids down to the lake
    shore to teach is kid to fish and catch a few bluegills or perch.

    As for the DNR who claim to be
    concerned about their image to the public which was badly hurt with the last
    attempted license increase fiasco, they really need to think about what they
    are doing. I know if this should go through as is, the DNR will have totally
    lost my support.

    I’m in favor of more money for the
    DNR, but I’m also a capitalist. Those who do more should pay more, not a
    socialist, who believe everyone should pay the same.

    Thank you for your time,


    Paul Szymanski