Legislation is introduced in the State Senate that would let senior citizen sportsmen stand up and be counted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Senate Bill 399 is the Senior Citizen License Bill. Senator Ed Bowman of Hancock County and Senator Ron Stollings of Boone County are co-sponsors of the legislation, which is heavily supported by the West Virginia DNR.
The bill would require anyone turning 65 in the future to purchase a one time hunting and fishing license at a cost of $15. The purchase of that license would enable the DNR to count that senior as a license holder for ten-years when applying for West Virginia’s share of federal fish and wildlife aid money. Presently West Virginia seniors are not counted because there is no requirement for them to buy a license. If enacted, those currently over the age of 65 would not be required to purchase the senior license. The legislation also would not apply to those who already have a lifetime license.
"Our seniors continue to buy arms, ammunition, and fishing equipment,” said DNR Director Frank Jezioro, "But if they don’t have a license, none of that tax money comes back to West Virginia. It goes to other state’s like Florida or Pennsylvania or any state that has a senior license."
The excise tax on those outdoors products is returned 100 percent to the states after being collected by the feds. However, the amount is based on the amount of land you have available to hunt, the amount of water to fish, and the number of licensed and hunters and fishermen in the state. Because of a lack of any licensing requirement, West Virginia seniors are presently not counted.
The DNR has clamored for such a measure for years as neighboring states add similar permits–some at a much higher cost to residents. Last year the bill passed the Senate, but failed in the House. Jezioro says a lack of proper understanding is probably to blame.
"I have gone before several different groups of hunters and fishermen in the last year,” said Jezioro. "Once it’s explained and they realize it’s their money that’s coming back, I haven’t run into any opposition at all."