2005 will Bring Increase in Big Game Hunting License Fees

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The Division of Wildlife Resources' ability to manage Utah's wildlife received a critical and much-needed boost during the recent Utah legislative session. The state legislature approved hunting license fee increases that will help put the DWR back on stable financial ground, allow it to fill some of its vacant positions and do habitat work critical to deer and other wildlife.

Nonresidents will be those most affected by the fee increase, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2005. The DWR should receive an additional $1.7 million a year through the increase.

"The continued drought, a slow economy and rangeland fires are among several things that have impacted the division's budget over the past few years," said Greg Sheehan, Administrative Services Section chief for the DWR. "We've spent nearly $1 million more than we've taken in each of the last several years."

To try and cut costs, the DWR has left 25 positions vacant and cut spending in almost all of its programs. There are also several habitat projects the division has not been able to carry out. Even with all of the cost cutting, the DWR was close to running out of surplus money. "Our budget surplus was getting to a critical level. That's a dangerous situation to be in with chronic wasting disease and all of the other situations that can impact a wildlife agency financially," Sheehan said. "It will be a lifesaver to have this additional revenue that can be used to build that surplus again."

Over the next few months, DWR staff will determine how to spend money that isn't put into the surplus. Filling vacant positions and using the money for habitat work to benefit deer and other wildlife are two examples of how it might be used. A walk-in access program that would provide hunters and anglers with access to private property is another development that may await sportsmen in future years.

The following is an example of some of the current fees and the 2005 fees approved by the legislature (some of the other fees that were approved aren't listed):

Resident General Season Deer, (2004) $35/ (2005) $40
Resident General Season Elk, (2004) $60/ (2005) $65
Resident Limited Entry Bull Elk, (2004) $180/ (2005) $280
Resident Wild Turkey, (2004) $30/ (2005) $40
Nonresident General Season Deer, (2004) $208/ (2005) $263
Nonresident General Season Elk, (2004)$333/ (2005) $388
Nonresident Limited Entry Bull Elk, (2004) $483/ (2005) $795
Nonresident Wild Turkey, (2004) $55/ (2005) $100

Most nonresident big game permits will increase by $55 in 2005. Two exceptions are nonresident limited entry bull elk permits, which will cost $795, and nonresident once-in-a-lifetime big game permits, most of which increased by $500 over what they cost in 2004.

Another change is that resident and nonresident wild turkey hunters will not be required to purchase a small game license. Not requiring this should simplify the process of obtaining a wild turkey hunting permit.

The legislature also approved a fee for a premium limited entry bull elk permit. There aren't any premium limited entry bull elk units in Utah, but some existing limited entry bull elk units could be changed to premium units. People can comment on whether they want some of Utah's limited entry bull elk units changed to premium units at Regional Advisory Council meetings this fall.

In addition to the hunting license fee increase, the legislature restored $60,000 in additional general fund money to the DWR during the recent session. The legislature also directed the division to provide $300,000 of its general fund money to the Department of Agriculture and Food. This money will be used to control coyotes and other predators.