2014-02-27 / Outdoors

New license changes set to begin March 1

Additional options to generate revenue

LANSING – Starting March 1, Michigan sportsmen and women will see something they haven’t witnessed in many years: changes to the state’s hunting, fishing and ORV license options – a lineup that hadn’t undergone real change since 1997. The changes are happening for good reason.

Michigan’s new hunting and fishing license options will generate additional revenue for natural resources habitat improvement. The new license structure provides a simpler license-buying experience, brings Michigan’s license options and prices in line with those of other states, and generates the revenue necessary to deliver the best in outdoor recreation opportunities.

The first thing customers will notice is an easier-to-navigate number of license choices – from 227 down to just over 40. Individual archery deer and firearm deer licenses? Gone. Restricted fishing license? Ditto. Pricing on several items has changed, too; some prices have risen, some remain the same, and others have decreased.

Department of Natural Resources Director Keith Creagh says the changes will provide valuable support for the work the DNR does in close cooperation with partner organizations.

“World-class natural resources belong to everybody in Michigan and define who we are as a state,” Creagh said. “Those resources are fundamental to why people live in, visit and set up shop in Michigan – and that’s vital to our state and local economies.

“We want to make it easier for people to get the licenses they need and ensure the funding that will allow the DNR and our partners to enhance and protect our natural resources for current and future generations,” he added.

New for hunters

All hunters will be required to purchase a base license, with different price points for resident, junior, senior and nonresident hunters.

The base license (which allows the buyer to hunt small game) is needed to purchase any other licenses. Deer hunters will have the option of buying one deer license ($20) or two-deer licenses ($40). Hunters may choose one option or the other.

The single deer license replaces the separate firearm and archery season licenses of previous years, and is valid for archery, firearm and muzzleloader seasons. Hunters who opt for the single tag won’t be able to purchase a second, but they will be able to purchase antlerless licenses where available.

With the two-tag deer combo license, both licenses are valid for archery, firearm and muzzleloader seasons. It includes one regular and one restricted license, as in previous years. Antler point restrictions will apply based on the area of the state.

Antlerless deer licenses cost $20, and will continue to be available based on license quotas set for each deer management unit; quotas should be finalized in July.

New for anglers

The two previous options for fishing licenses – one for everything except trout and salmon and another that included trout and salmon – have been rolled into one license.

A resident fishing license will cost $26 and includes fishing for trout and salmon (down from $28 if you bought the all-species license under the old system). A one-day fishing license will cost just $10.

New fishing licenses are required beginning April 1.

The hook-and-bullet crowd can try the hunt/fish combo (the base license, a fishing license and two deer tags), which is available for $76, a modest savings compared to buying them separately.

Discounts on some licenses will be available for youths and seniors. Active military and veterans with 100-percent disability who were or are Michigan residents will also be eligible for free licenses.

New for off-roaders

Off-road vehicle riders haven’t seen a license price increase since 1996. Starting March 1, operators will pay $26.25 for a license to operate on eligible county roads and national forest roads, state forest roads in the Upper Peninsula and the frozen surface of public waters. No license is needed for use on private land.

If you want to head out on state trails, routes or ORV areas, you’ll need to pick up an additional $10 ORV trail permit.

Return on investment

The DNR anticipates the new license options, when fully implemented, could bring in up to $18 million annually in new revenue. Director Creagh said residents will see these critical dollars reinvested into Michigan’s natural resources in a number of meaningful ways.

One dollar from the sale of every base hunting license, allspecies fishing license and hunt/ fish combo is earmarked to build public awareness about game and fish management, the role hunters, trappers and anglers play in conservation, and the overall economic impact of hunting and fishing. This program was included in statute and is based on a Colorado project that is yielding greater public acceptance of hunting and fishing since it was adopted.

Anglers will see projects to improve habitat in inland waters, additional capacity for fishrearing at state fish hatcheries, and increased creel surveys and assessments of both inland and Great Lakes waters.

Hunters will benefit from more habitat improvement projects for both big game and small game, increased target-shooting opportunities at state game areas, and expanded access to hunting opportunities on public and private land.

All outdoor recreation enthusiasts will benefit from the presence of additional conservation officers across the state.

ORV users will see an expanded trail system, as well as existing trails that are safer because of better grooming, brushing, signage and overall maintenance (including the replacement of failing bridges and culverts).

Changes like these, along with a grant program devoted to improvement of the state’s wildlife and aquatic habitat, are exactly what the DNR had in mind.

The department was pleased to see a broad range of outdoors, conservation and environmental groups lend their support to the restructured license package last year, in anticipation of just such deliverables.

A better buying experience

Michigan’s new pricing structure is also accompanied by an easier, faster buying process. Retail license agents’ terminal screens have been streamlined to clearly show available choices with new help options should an issue arise, and many of these changes were made in direct response to customers’ requests and suggestions of how to best improve the system.

Sportsmen and women will only be able to purchase the licenses they qualify for, which DNR Licensing and Reservations Manager Denise Gruben says will eliminate potential confusion.

Buying licenses online will get easier, too.

“Our customers can take advantage of the mobile buying experience for smart phones and tablets, adding a whole new level of ease,” Gruben explained. “When you buy your license on a mobile device, it will save as a PDF on that device. You can print and laminate if you want, or just save it on your device to conveniently show an officer, if asked.”

The bottom line? Starting March 1, Michigan’s outdoor recreation community will be introduced to a simpler, fairer and more efficient license structure, and know that every dollar will be reinvested for the current and long-term good of the natural resources we all treasure.

If you would like to learn more about the new license structure – including pricing charts, frequently asked questions, and how the revenue will be used – visit www.michigan.gov/dnr and click on “Learn about the restructuring of hunting, fishing and ORV licenses.”

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