An effort to reallocate and make clear how money from state deer licenses is spent was held over Tuesday by the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance Division.
Sponsored by Rep. Fue Lee (DFL-Mpls), HF600 would reduce a portion of funds allocated to the Game and Fish fund, redirecting that money instead to the Department of Natural Resources’ deer management account. Currently, the DNR receives $2 per license to be used for deer habitat improvement and deer management programs. The bill would increase that amount to $16 per license. Around 500,000 deer hunting licenses were sold last year.
Lee stressed that the proposal would change the disposition of funds, rather than upping the fee for hunting licenses. If enacted, the change would be applied retroactively to the beginning of the current hunting license period, March 1, 2018.
The proposal, which has no Senate companion, was characterized as a carryover from last year by Cory Bennett, representing the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association. A similar provision was part of the omnibus budget bill vetoed by former Gov. Mark Dayton last year.
Bennet said the association typically is in favor of fees, since they want the fish and wildlife funds to remain solvent, but they also want more transparency in how that money is spent.
Community member and hunter Yeng Moua echoed Bennett, saying increased transparency “can help new, present and past hunters … to see where the money really is going.” Moua implied that transparency would increase the sense of agency Minnesota hunters feel, encouraging them to continue in a sport with deep conservation, cultural and economic impacts.
The deer management account provides operating money for a number of programs with the DNR, including emergency deer feeding, Chronic Wasting Disease efforts, and habitat management. Many of those programs have tangential impacts on conservation efforts for other wildlife, as well, noted DNR Assistant Commissioner Bob Meier.