Going Up


(Charleston) — The cost of hunting and fishing license in West Virginia may soon increase.  The proposal, now out for public comment, would raise the cost of the popular Sportsman’s Class X license from $33 to $35 annually.  The proposal is tied to the last license increase approved by the legislature.  Under that plan, the cost of the license is to be adjusted according to the Consumer Price Index.

"We said rather than come back periodically for a huge increase, which nobody likes, let’s connect this to the Consumer Price Index," said Curtis Taylor, Chief of Wildlife for the West Virginia DNR. "We’ll watch that index and if it goes up and calls for an increase in the license of over a dollar we’ll do that, rather than come back in ten years and raise it $20."

The idea of the increase is to help the cost of hunting and fishing license keep pace with inflation.  Taylor admits any increase is unpopular, but says it’s necessary to maintain quality wildlife and fish management in the state.

"It helps us pay for $4.00 a gallon gas.  Trout food has gone up 50-percent and we expect it to go up again.  Our costs are just like everybody else, they’re linked to the cost of inflation," Taylor said.

Although hunters and anglers can buy individual license for each activity, the sportsman’s license combines the two at a reduced rate.  Sportsman license holders are afforded the privilege for all fishing in the state, with the exception of trout which requires another stamp.  The license also allows hunters to hunt small game, spring gobblers, fall turkeys, and kill one buck each in the gun season, archery season, and muzzleloader season. The license furthermore extends trapping privileges and covers the cost of a Conservation Stamp.    

Taylor says at $35 dollars it’s quite a bargain.

"We have one of the cheapest licenses in the nation," said Taylor. "When I tell my counterparts in other state what it costs, they tell me, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’"

Since each state’s license structure and hunting and fishing opportunities vary, a true comparison is difficult.  However, roughly the equivalent in-state license in Kentucky is $95, Virginia is $120, and Ohio residents pay $120. 

The proposed increase will also affect West Virginia‘s Lifetime Hunting and Fishing License.   The statue creating the lifetime permit calls for their cost to be 23-times the cost of a Sportsman’s License.   The cost of the adult lifetime license would jump to $805.  A lifetime license for an infant, anyone under age two, would be half that amount.  

"It’s a heck of a bargain and it’s a bargain you can use 365 days a year," said Taylor.  "I’m not a golfer, but I guarantee you’ll spend more than 35-dollars to go play one round of golf."

Even if the new fees are approved, the DNR will still be behind in funding.    The proposed changes will have to be considered by the legislature next year.   If lawmakers agree to the increase, it would not take effect until 2010.    The rate of inflation on which the increase is based will already be two years behind the current rate.

Taylor defends the increase by challenging sportsmen to consider what they’re getting for that money.

"If they want quality hunting, fishing, and wildlife management areas and want us to buy more land you’ve got to have money to operate.  Just like you can’t operate your household, we can’t operate the state’s fish and wildlife without adequate funding," said Taylor.

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