A bill introduced Monday in the Kansas Senate could authorize substantial increases to the cost of hunting and fishing licenses and many other permits if passed.
Senate Bill 50, which originated in the Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources, would authorize the secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism to substantially raise the cost of many licenses, including resident and nonresident hunting and fishing licenses. In all, 35 licenses, permits and fees would see changes under the bill if it were to be signed into law, spanning the gamut of outdoor recreation from fishing and hunting to furharvesting, falconry and even mussel fishing.
The KDWPT, which is sponsoring the bill, said if passed it would have no direct fiscal effect on the agency as it doesn’t intend to raise fees at this time, according to a fiscal note attached to the bill.
“Any increase in the actual fees charged would be implemented through the rules and regulations process,” the fiscal note reads. “The bill would, however, give the agency latitude over time to respond to alterations in wildlife populations, changes to environment, and the fiscal demands of agency operations.”
Under the bill, the maximum cap for annual resident hunting, fishing and furharvester licenses would increase from $25 to $50 apiece, with combination licenses increasing from $50 to $100 annually. The maximum limit on lifetime licenses also would increase from $500 to $750 for hunting, furharvesting or fishing licenses sold separately and from $1,000 to $1,500 for lifetime combination hunting and fishing licenses. The maximum cap on migratory waterfowl habitat stamps would rise from $8 to $20, and 48-hour waterfowl permits would be eliminated. The maximum cap on turkey tags also would double under the new bill.
The maximum limit on elk permits would rise from $350 to $500, while nonresident big game permits for species other than elk would rise from $400 to $600. Nonresident mule deer stamps could rise from a maximum of $150 to $250 under the bill, and nonresident application fees could rise from $25 to $40.
The bill also would do away with commercial guide permits and associate guide permits altogether, which currently have a maximum cost of $250 for residents and $1,000 for nonresidents.
Strangely enough, the hardest-hit group of all outdoors enthusiasts could potentially be mussel fishermen. Under current law, there are separate mussel fishing licenses for residents and nonresidents, with a maximum cap of $200 for residents and $1,500 for nonresidents. Under the new bill, there would only be a single license for mussel fishing, with a maximum cap of $1,500.
Again, the bill would only grant the KDWPT secretary the authority to make price increases up to the new maximum limits. The prices wouldn’t necessarily increase at all if the bill was passed unless the secretary decided to make adjustments, as that is ultimately the office responsible for setting prices for licenses and fees within the parameters set by the Legislature.
“Adjusting fee caps now would give the Commission the authority and flexibility to incrementally increase some fees in the future if, and when needed, but not without first holding a public hearing,” the KDWPT said in a news release late Friday. That release had a headline that read, “Legislation Would Not Increase Hunting and Fishing Fees.”
According to the Kansas Legislature’s website, the chairman of the committee that introduced the bill is Sen. Dan Kerschen, R-Garden Plain. Other committee members include vice chair Bud Estes, R-Dodge City; ranking minority member Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence; Sen. Ed Berger, R-Hutchinson; Sen. Rick Billinger, R-Goodland; Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick; Sen. Dennis Pyle, R-Hiawatha; Sen. Mary Ware, D-Wichita; and Sen. Mary Jo Taylor, R-Stafford. Kerschen and Francisco both were asked for comment Friday afternoon prior to the posting of the agency’s news release on the bill. Neither immediately responded to the request.
A similar bill, SB 330, was introduced by the committee during the 2018 session but was struck from the calendar on March 1 of that year.
Licenses and permit fee increases were implemented as recently as 2016, marking the first time hunting and fishing license fees had increased since 2002, according to the KDWPT. It also marked the first time resident deer and turkey permit fees had increased since 1986. The KDWPT receives no support from the State General Fund, though it does receive federal funding from excise taxes that hunters and anglers pay on equipment purchases.
A hearing date for the bill has not yet been set.
Senate Bill 49
Another bill introduced by the committee this session was Senate Bill 49, which would amend current law to allow the KDWPT secretary to establish fees for camping permits without the approval of the KDWPT Commission or a public hearing and eliminate the maximum fee amounts currently in statute.
The fiscal note attached to that bill says the KDWPT believes it will allow the agency to take advantage of changing market conditions, likely resulting in increased revenue to the Parks Fee Fund, and that the agency is “unable to estimate what that increase might amount to.”