Georgia hunting, fishing license fees to rise under House plan – Moore American
ATLANTA — A proposal to hike Georgia’s hunting and fishing fees has gotten some nibbles under the Gold Dome.
The bill increases fees across the board, from licenses for hunting and fishing to permits to harvest alligators. Seniors, who currently enjoy a free pass, will also start paying a relatively small fee.
If approved, it will be the first increase in more than two decades.
Hunting and fishing licenses are expected to bring in a little more $24 million last year. That would grow by at least $6.7 million per year under the new fees — likely more if the state grows its list of license holders and hauls in additional federal dollars.
The Department of Natural Resources has pledged to put that money back into state resources, and outdoorsmen say they will watch to ensure that’s where it ends up.
“They’re willing to pay more, but they want to make sure they’re getting more,” said Mike Worley, president and CEO of the Georgia Wildlife Federation.
The federation is among the hunting and conservation groups that support the increases because they say they want better access to public lands, richer wildlife habitats and improved boat ramps and other amenities.
The state will also hire 40 additional game wardens to help fill the void in the 47 counties that currently lack them.
“We’re not asking the general public or anybody to help us with it,” the proposal’s sponsor, Rep. Trey Rhodes, R-Greensboro, said at a recent meeting. “We’re self-funding this through our hunters. Hunters are doing this for hunters.”
Rhodes said the bill aims to bring fees more in line with what other states in the region charge.
A resident hunting license would cost $15, which is a $5 bump. A dual license for hunting and fishing would cost $30, which is $13 more.
A sportsman’s license would cost $65, up from $55.
Georgians older than 65 would pay $7 annually for a sportsman’s license. Another new license, for youth ages 12 to 15, would be optional. It would cost $5. Hunters are required to have a license when they turn 16.
New licenses for seniors and youth are designed to increase the number of people licensed to hunt and fish in Georgia. For each license issued, the state receives about $40 in federal dollars – paid through a tax on firearms and other goods.
Rhodes’ bill has found support in the House Game, Fish and Parks Committee, which approved it Tuesday.
Lawmakers said the additional funding is critical for maintaining the state’s resources for future generations.
“This hunting heritage is very important to me,” said Rep. Steve Tarvin, R-Chickamauga, a member of the committee. “I may not ever hunt again in my life, but it’s important for my grandkids to know where an egg comes from, and it ain’t a grocery store.”
The bill is expected to clear the House but may find rougher waters in the Senate, where another bill seeks to freeze fees for existing license holders.
Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen, who is sponsoring that measure, argued that his proposal is the best way to induce more renewals and reap more federal money.
Nearly 83 percent of hunting license holders renewed this year. A smaller percentage, 69 percent, renewed their fishing license.
Heath’s bill passed the Senate this week, although his colleagues expressed concerns — particularly about longterm revenue — they said still must be addressed.
Jill Nolin covers the Georgia Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.