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DNR opens up on license plan in Hedgesville

February 02, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

HEDGESVILLE, W.VA. - A plan to restructure the fees charged for hunting and fishing licenses in West Virginia - including a fee increase - will help the state's Division of Natural Resources continue its existing programs and acquire more land, among other goals, DNR officials said Tuesday.

Several local and state DNR officials were at James Rumsey Technical Institute in Hedgesville Tuesday night to explain the proposal, which still must be approved by the Legislature.

Under the proposal, outdoor enthusiasts would no longer be able to buy separate hunting and fishing licenses for $11 each. Instead they would need to buy a combined hunting/fishing license for $25.

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For $25, the buyer would be able to fish year-round, but would not be able to keep trout; would be able to kill one antlered deer during the bucks-only firearm season, kill one deer of either sex during the archery season, kill one deer of either sex during the muzzleloader season, kill two bearded turkeys during the spring gobbler season and one turkey of either sex during the fall turkey season.

It also provides for waterfowl hunting, boar hunting, trapping, small game hunting and a national forest stamp, according to written information distributed during the public meeting.

Currently a hunter must pay an extra $5 to be able to hunt boar, an extra $5 to hunt turkeys, and $5 each for archery and muzzleloader permits during deer hunting seasons.

No hunting or fishing license fee increases have taken place since 1989, said Paul Johansen, assistant chief of the DNR's Wildlife Resources section.

"It's really past time to see a fee increase," said Johansen, who said the last increase was designed to stave off future increases for seven or eight years.

A key component of the proposal is to align future fee increases with the Consumer Price Index. Such a plan would mean more frequent fee changes, but smaller price increases, Johansen said.

Overall feedback to the proposal has been positive.

"We're not hearing virtually anyone say they don't think we need a fee increase," Johansen said.

Most of those who have expressed concerns with the plan are anglers who do not hunt and do not want to pay one fee for a combined hunting/fishing license, DNR officials said.

A thrust of the combined license requirement is gaining $5 in federal aid for each hunter the state licenses. That $5 is not gained when fishing licenses are sold.

Some existing provisions will remain in place. Those over the age of 65, who are active-duty military personnel or who plan to hunt or fish on their own land still will not be required to pay for licenses, said Scott Knight, business manager for the DNR's Wildlife Resources section.

Members of the Legislature could discuss the proposal during the upcoming regular session, which begins next week.

"We think it's got a really good chance" of gaining the Legislature's approval, Johansen said.

Along with dozens of fishing sites, the DNR operates three public hunting areas in the Eastern Panhandle - Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area in Berkeley County, Shannondale Springs Wildlife Management Area in Jefferson County, and Widmeyer Wildlife Management Area in Morgan County.

Two outdoorsmen who attended the meeting said they have no objections to the proposal.

John Stewart, 55, has been hunting since he was 14 years old, while Larry Horner, 60, has been hunting since he was 10. Both men live in Berkeley County and also fish.

Stewart said he does not believe the increase is so great that it will prevent people from hunting or fishing.

"I'm just surprised it wasn't much more," said Horner, who paid $350 to hunt a mule deer in Colorado.

"It's a good deal," Horner said of the DNR's proposal. "It's still a good price. You can't beat it."

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