DNR and sporting organizations asking for fish and waterfowl stamp increases

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(WSAW) -- For those who hunt waterfowl, like duck, or fish for trout or salmon, it might cost you more, but the ones who pay the most into the sport are also the ones asking to increase their costs.

The Wisconsin Conservation Congress, which is essentially the Department of Natural Resources' elected policy advisory arm, is recommending increasing the stamp fee to fish for inland trout from $10 to $15, Great Lakes salmon and trout from $10 to $15, and waterfowl from $7 to $12 in the DNR's budget request.

"There are more projects requested than there are funds available in stamp funds," chairman Larry Bonde said.

He explained the statewide sporting organizations listed below met with him to come up with revenue options to address insufficient funding within the Fish and Wildlife account before the previous budget session.

- Ducks Unlimited
- Trout Unlimited
- Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association
- Wisconsin Conservation Congress
- Wisconsin Trappers Association
- Wisconsin Waterfowl Association
- Ruffed Grouse Society
- Wisconsin Wildlife Federation
- Quality Deer Management Association
- Safari Club International - WI Chapter, NE Chapter, Badgerland Chapter, and SE Bow Chapter
- Wisconsin State Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers
- Sauk County Conservation Alliance
- Wisconsin Green Fire
- Wisconsin Chapter of the Wildlife Society

They agreed with raising the stamp fees previously listed, because the money goes towards conservation efforts for those species.

"The cost for renting a bulldozer for some of these restoration projects has gone up more than 100%, so we're not getting the bang for our buck that the sportsmen are putting these dollars up for," Bonde noted.

Republican senator, Tom Tiffany, who is on the Joint Finance Committee, said he does not think the increases are necessary.

"What I heard from Secretary (Preston) Cole and his staff on two different occasions is they termed the account as being healthy, that it's in good shape and it really was not necessary to increase these license and stamp fees and also, Governor Evers did not include an increase in his budget," he explained.

The DNR told us the Fish and Wildlife Account is healthy right now, but said they expect that to change based on federal funding.

Currently the account is funded by federal dollars and user fees. The DNR saved about $24 million over the last 15 years because of healthy federal funding.

"Since 2014, the department has been maximizing the amount of federal Pitman-Robertson revenue it uses to pay for fish and wildlife management; this has been both in addition to overall and in-lieu of some State hunting, fishing, and trapping fees being used to pay for fish and wildlife management. This has led to the substantial size of the unallocated continuing balance," DNR Communications Director Sarah Hoye told 7 Investigates.

"Maximizing federal funds allows the department to spend under the amounts the legislature appropriates from the Fish and Wildlife Account; at the end of the fiscal year, eight of 18 general appropriation balances lapse back as an unallocated balance," she continued.

Now, the legislature has to approve the spending of that $24 million.

The federal funding comes from the Pittman-Robertson Act, which allocates firearm and ammunition sales taxes to help fund wildlife conservation. Those sales skyrocketed under the Obama Administration over fears of gun control. Under the current administration, gun sales have evened out. Hoye said because of that, federal funding has reduced as well. With future funding in question, the DNR is not opposed to raising the stamp fees.

"We all know there are people out there who don't want increases," said Bonde, "but on this one, we are very confident that the majority of the people who participate in the sporting activities are willing to put a couple more dollars up for their pleasure."