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GF&P weighs increasing prices for 2013 licenses

PIERRE -- The state Wildlife Division saw revenue from hunting and fishing licenses fall slightly in 2010 and again in 2011. Officials expect further decline this year.

If recent estimates hold true for the remainder of 2012, the division will have seen more than $1 million slip away from its bottom line since 2009.

That is why talks are under way about asking the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission to raise license prices for the 2013 seasons.

The commission last raised most prices for the 2005 seasons. The previous round of increases before that in most cases took effect for 1999.

Tony Leif, the division's director, presented information to the commission at its meeting last month in Milbank.

If there is a formal request for increases, it will come when the commission gathers next month in Deadwood.

"Our goal here today is to just get this on the table," Leif said.

The state Division of Parks and Recreation is likewise going through the same analysis about possible increases in prices for entrance licenses.

The Wildlife Division collected in excess of $27.4 million from hunting and fishing licenses in 2009. That included more than $10.2 million from South Dakota residents and nearly $17.2 million from nonresidents.

In 2011, the total was $26.6 million, with nearly $9.7 million from residents and more than $16.9 million from nonresidents.

For 2012, the latest estimates total $26.3 million.

One reason for the decline is a smaller population of antelope. Fewer licenses have meant about $640,000 less in revenue.

Another significant reason is reduced license numbers in some deer-hunting units. Those cuts have added up to about $350,000 less.

Sales of fishing licenses, small-game hunting licenses and resident combination licenses (fishing and small game) have held generally steady since 2009.

The biggest seller remains non-resident small game, the $110 license generally necessary for visitors to hunt pheasants in South Dakota.

Since 2009, those sales have slipped slightly but remained at $12 million-plus in 2011 and are estimated to be at that mark again this fall.

Generally, non-residents pay two to three times as much for a license for the same season as a South Dakota angler or hunter.

A resident small-game hunting license costs $29.

A resident fishing license is $25, while a non-resident fishing license for the full year is $60.