If House Bill 5334 is passed into law, Michigan hunters and anglers could purchase individual lifetime licenses for hunting and fishing several different types of species. The proposed lifetime licenses include firearm deer, archery deer, small game, restricted fishing, and all-species fishing. Individual lifetime license fees range from $220 to $285. An all-encompassing lifetime license for small game, firearm and archery deer, all-species fishing, bear, waterfowl, and resident fur harvester would sell for $1,025.
The bill was introduced at the beginning of the year by Representative Richard LeBlanc, D-Westland. At the time of introduction, there was no known opposition or support from outdoor groups. LeBlanc said the bill was inspired by the conversations he had with hunters who possessed lifetime licenses purchased in the short time frame that Michigan offered them (in 1989 and 1990).
Many hunters liked the lifetime licenses and would like to purchase one if it was an option, but Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials and the Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) worry they would negatively impact federal conservation funding and also complicate wildlife management efforts.
Legislative Affairs Manager for MUCC Kent Wood said the group hasn’t yet decided on an official position on LeBlanc’s legislation. In theory, MUCC is supportive of multi-year, comprehensive licenses, but federal funding uncertainties hinder their support.
In an interview with Outdoor News, DNR Wildlife Chief Russ Mason said the licenses would increase revenue for the DNR in the short term, but “there are issues with obtaining federal (funding) match in the out years.”
But DNR Chief Budget Officer Sharon Schafer counters that notion, saying that federal funding wouldn’t be affected by the legislation. The 3,135 hunters and anglers who purchased a lifetime license when it was available in 1989 are counted each year toward the total number of Michigan license buyers whose revenue generated is matched by federal funds.
Schafer said the problem lies in insufficient amounts of revenue generated from the sale of these licenses. A child who obtains a lifetime all-encompassing license in his/her youth would contribute a total of $1,025 for decades of hunting and fishing licenses. “You have to spread it out over their lifetime,” Schafer said.
For example, say an 18 year old buys an all encompassing license and he uses it for the next 50 years. He will end up having paid only $20.50 per year to hunt any game he likes with any weapon, fish any species and so on. He comes out on top, while wildlife management funds end up depleted.
“Lifetime licenses sound like a good idea, but they have negative financial consequences and management consequences, especially for highly sought-after species,” Wildlife Chief Mason said.
When new regulations are developed, for example, if bears become listed as threatened or endangered, “a lifetime license holder would come up and say ‘When I bought this, I could hunt bear wherever I wanted, every year,’” Mason said.
Rep. LeBlanc admits lifetime licenses could have funding implications, but that not enough hunters or anglers would buy a lifetime license to negatively impact the DNR’s budget.
Photo: VA State Park Staff