RELEASE: MUCC Statement on Governor’s Proposed DNR Budget, License Changes

Michigan’s outdoors plays a vital role in Michigan’s prosperity and that was clearly  evident in several of the recommendations highlighted in Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s proposed 2014 budget.

During his budget unveiling Thursday, Gov. Snyder announced recommendations that address three key areas of concern to our members: Conservation funding, fish and game law enforcement and Great Lakes access.

As part of his recommendations, Gov. Snyder recommended a restructuring of the DNR’s hunting, fishing and trapping licensing system.   He also recommended additional General Fund appropriations for Conservation Officers and a mix of General Fund and Waterways funding for anticipated dredging operations due to historically-low water levels in the Great Lakes.

Gov. Snyder’s budget proposal includes a DNR operating budget of $351.8 million for 2014 .  The Governor also recommends a one-time funding of $2.6 million from the state’s general fund for a conservation officer school and a new Great Lakes research vessel.

Of the $351.8 million budget,  just $24.7 million is General Fund monies–just 7%. The remaining funds come from an array of sources outside of general taxpayer-funds such as license and user fees and Federal funding sources such as Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Act funds. The budget proposal is a $16.5 million increase in the DNR’s budget over 2013.

In his recommendations, Gov. Snyder provided a brief outline of a new license structure that would include a base hunting license good for small game and waterfowl hunters. Separate, stand-alone tags for other species (deer, turkeys, bears, etc.) can then be added. The Governor’s recommendations indicated that the system would be simpler and easier to administer. The Governor’s proposal anticipates an increase of $18 million in license fees as a result of the changes, making it the first increase since 1996.

“Hunter, angler and trapper dollars fund the lion’s share of conservation in Michigan and our license fees are a large part of the Department of Natural Resources’ operating budget,” said Erin McDonough, Executive Director of MUCC. “Our members deserve the very best in resource management that those license dollars can deliver. We are in favor of simplifying regulations and in having an easy-to-understand licensing system so long as it means the end result is a better system and better on-the-ground investments for sportsmen and women.

“We are currently evaluating the proposal as well as taking a hard look at current DNR spending. We have spent the last year, at the request of our members, working with the Department to improve transparency and to get the information we need to be able to understand how our licenses fees are spent and where they should be focused in the future.  We appreciate the Snyder’s administration’s commitment to measurable results and openness to helping us answer the question: ‘Where are our license fees spent?’  We look forward to working with the Governor, the DNR and our members in this process.”

Low water levels this summer threaten to make many of Michigan’s boating access sites unusable and we agree with the Governor that actions must be taken to ensure those sites remain open.

“Ensuring access to our lakes is not only important to our members and those who love to fish and boat, it’s also vital to the state’s economy,” said McDonough. “Without access to the Great Lakes, Michigan’s $3 billion sport fishing industry would take a big hit.”

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