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GF&P to consider increases for camping, hunting, fishing licenses

By Bob Mercer

Capitol Correspondent

PIERRE — Price increases for state camping sites and for most hunting, fishing and trapping licenses in South Dakota will receive a public hearing Thursday afternoon by the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission.

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The state Wildlife Division estimates that approximately $2 million would be generated during 2014 from license increases that in most instances would range from $1 to $5 more for South Dakota residents. Resident elk licenses would go up $19 for any elk and $10 for cow elk.

The last round of general increases in license fees came in 2005.

Most non-resident licenses would increase, too, except licenses for pheasants, most waterfowl and some deer and antelope. Those prices were raised a year ago for the 2013 seasons.

Under the proposal, a resident annual license for fishing would increase to $28 from $25; a resident senior annual license for fishing would go up to $12 from $10; and an annual small-game hunting license for residents — the one needed for pheasants — would rise to $33 from $30.

The popular combination license for fishing and small game for resident would increase to $55 from $50 for adults; to $27 from $25 for youth; and to $40 from $35 for seniors.

Most of the campsite fees would increase by less than $2, with camping cabins, lodges and group sites going up somewhat more. The state Division of Parks and Recreation estimates those fee increases will produce about $665,000 per year.

The public hearing is at 2 p.m. during the commission’s meeting in Pierre at the Ramkota conference center. The commission will likely make a decision yet that day or on Friday morning when the meeting resumes.

Parks Director Doug Hofer said Monday he’s seen only one public comment so far about the camping fee increases.

“That comment was suggesting that we should do everything possible to keep camping affordable for people that don’t need all the amenities typically utilized by RV campers,” Hofer said.

The license fees have generated more public comments. Wildlife Division Director Tony Leif said Monday that 15 letters have been received.

“Some letters oppose all the proposed changes, others voice opposition to specific parts of the proposal and others express concern over where the additional revenue will be used,” Leif said.

GF&P officials estimate inflation of 20 percent since 2005 and need to cover rising health-care costs and Legislature-set increases in salaries for state employees. The Wildlife Division is self-funded and the Parks Division is generally self-funded other than for large projects.