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GF&P seeks to raise many license fees for 2014 seasons

By Bob Mercer

Capitol Correspondent

SPEARFISH — Inflation has risen 20 percent since 2005, the last time hunters and anglers faced price increases for their licenses to hunt and fish in South Dakota. The state Game, Fish and Parks Commission decided Thursday to propose raising prices for 2014.

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Health care and salary increases were cited as the reason the increases are needed. A public hearing will be held Nov. 7 in Pierre by the commission at its next meeting. The goal is to raise an additional $2 million.

“The budget we put together was a flat budget,” said Tony Leif, the Wildlife Division director.

He said the division also recommends expanding use of the $5 fee on preference points for unsuccessful big-game applicants.

“These would not be required,” Leif said. “They would have the option to decline the preference point and the payment for those.”

Among the standard most-purchased licenses for residents, the annual fishing license would increase to $28 from the present $25; the annual small-game license would go to $33 from the current $30; and the combination license (fishing and small game) would rise to $55 from the current $50.

Big-game license prices would increase, too. For example, the standard deer and antelope licenses would increase by $4. Furbearer licenses would rise to $30 from the present $25.

For non-residents, the annual fishing license would climb to $67 from $60 and big-game licenses would see increases, but there wouldn’t be any change in the small-game and preserve license prices.

Those licenses are primarily used by non-residents who hunt pheasants. Those prices went up last year for non-residents to the present $121 for the 10-day small-game license and to the present $46, $76 and $121, respectively, for the one-day, three-day and annual preserve licenses.

The working capital in the game fund is about $3 million below the $10 million target for state reserves on hand for emergencies, according to Leif.

He said the $10 million is intended to cover about three months of the division’s $40 million-plus annual operations if necessary.

Federal funding is shifting up and down in various programs. Overall, a 4 percent reduction is expected because of sequestration.

Leif said $1.1 million will be saved by cutting equipment purchases in half and other capital improvements will be re-budgeted by seeking other sources of funding.