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Game & Fish seeks public input on proposed fee, license hikes

The Arizona Game and Fish Department is hosting a series of public meetings this month to measure public opinion of proposed fee increases for hunting and fishing licenses.

Tom Cadden, a spokesman for the department, said the proposed fee increases are needed to cover growing expenses the Arizona Game and Fish Department has incurred from rising gasoline prices, increasing retirement costs of employees and training expenditures due to high employee turnover.

The hunting and fishing community accepts the need for an increase in costs, said Sen. Robert Cannell, D-Dist. 24, but it wants to see the money put to good use. He said they’re eager to see the department combat poaching, maintain safety on rural roads and waterways, and to expedite the notification of winners of its lottery-style system for awarding tags to hunt big game.

“They want fair rules and regulations for everyone,” said Mr. Cannell.

Sales of general fishing and hunting licenses, federal funding and the Heritage Fund make up the vast majority of the department’s revenues, according to the agency’s fiscal 2004 annual report.

836,000 licenses sold in 2004

Game and Fish sold about 836,000 various fishing and hunting licenses, tags and stamps during fiscal 2004. Revenues from all licenses sold supplied about 30 percent, or $20 million, of the department’s $59 million budget.

Funding from license sales to the department is slightly exceeded by federal funds. The agency received about $21 million during the same period.

The Heritage Fund, which puts a portion of lottery ticket sales toward environmental conservation efforts, raised about $10 million for the department.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department receives no funding from the state’s general fund. This makes it much more vulnerable to expenses regarding employees, such as insurance and retirement contributions, and necessary supplies like gasoline, says Mr. Cadden.

Under the proposed price hikes, authorized by S1365 last session, a general fishing license will cost $23.50, up from $18. A general hunting license, which allows a buyer to hunt small game such as dove, quail and rabbit, will rise to $32.25 from $25.50.

Fees for big game animals such as antelope, bear and deer will also rise under the proposal.

The proposed fee increases are below the adjusted price ceilings set by the legislation sponsored by Mr. Cannell and Rep. Jerry Weiers, R-12.

After public input is collected in the November meetings, department officials will provide the Arizona Game and Fish Commission with a formal fee proposal on Dec. 9-10 in Casa Grande, where the matter could come to a vote or the department could be ordered to modify the proposed changes.

Meeting locations are posted on the department’s Web site at www.gf.state.az.us.

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