The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has proposed new fees for hunters and boaters.
But, in consultation with sportsmen’s groups, the department recently revamped the hunting-fee proposal, abandoning part of its plans.
DNR also is working on amendments to its proposal for a new boating-fee structure, department spokesman Josh Davidsburg said Friday. Details were not yet available.
Both bills are scheduled to be heard Tuesday in the House Environmental Matters Committee in Annapolis.
The Herald-Mail received several form-letter emails from people opposing the proposed boating-fee increases.
One part of the proposal is to increase the cost of a boat “certificate of number,” or registration, which has not changed since 1983.
The current fee is $24 for a two-year certificate. Boats less then 16 feet long, with a motor of no more than 7.5 horsepower, are exempt.
Under the bill, DNR would have a new graduated schedule of five categories for certificate application fees, based on the length of the boat. The certificate fee would be $25 for the lowest category (less than 16 feet) and $350 for the highest category (longer than 65 feet).
Sailboats, which had been exempted, would now be included, except for those less than 16 feet long, according to the bill.
A summary posted at DNR’s website says the fee-increase proposal is “designed to enhance and stabilize the annual funding available for boating related activities in Maryland and will increase state revenues that can be used for developing and maintaining waterway improvement projects including, but not limited to, dredging local boat channels, developing and maintaining public boating access facilities, and providing other critical services to the boating public.”
The summary says the state’s Waterway Improvement Fund revenues — funded largely through a 5 percent excise tax — have declined 50 percent because of a “dramatic decrease in boat sales,” leaving Maryland “no longer able to fund these critical projects.”
The boating bill also would establish a new $12 biennial voluntary non-motorized vessel decal and would increase fees for a boat dealer’s license (from $25 to $100), replacement certificates (from $2 to $10) and boat titles ($2 to $25).
Christopher Linetty of Smithsburg was one of a handful of Washington County residents to send an opposition email to The Herald-Mail.
Under the new fee schedule, he would have to pay $250 to apply for a two-year certificate for his 48-foot boat. He said he understands the state needing to make up for falling revenues on excise taxes on boat sales, but he called the proposed increases “crazy, astronomical.”
“The state here lately’s going crazy with taxes,” he said.
Linetty said he owns two liquor stores and has felt the effects of last year’s increase in the state sales on alcohol.
On the wildlife management side, DNR is expecting a $1 million loss in fiscal year 2013 and another $500,000 for a few subsequent, said Paul A. Peditto, the director of DNR’s Wildlife and Heritage Service.
The department has had “unprecedented” cuts the last few years, yet is trying to do more, he said.
For example, DNR managed about 60,000 acres 20 years ago, but now manages almost 112,000 acres, Peditto said.
At the same time, the number of resident hunting licenses that the state sold dropped from about 180,000 in the 1970s to fewer than 100,000 now, he said.
Without the fee increases, DNR would have to “eliminate essential scientific programs that serve as the basis for key species management,” a DNR fact sheet about the bill says. The department would have to “forego hunting of these species due to non-compliance with federal or state requirements,” the fact sheet says.
The cost of a basic hunting license, as proposed in the bill, would rise from $24.50 to $40 for Maryland residents and from $130 to $160 for nonresidents.
But DNR is ditching another proposed fee, the consolidated hunting license, which would have cost $95 for residents and $295 for nonresidents.
Peditto said that item proved to be too confusing to the public.
An initial chart listed it as an increase from the current cost of $60.50 for residents and $230 for nonresidents, but such a license doesn’t exist now. The chart was meant to show what the actual costs were, he said.
DNR is sticking with the current a la carte approach to licenses.
The fee for residents to get a bow or muzzleloader stamp for deer would increase from $6 to $10. The nonresident cost would increase from $25 to $30.
DNR had proposed a consolidated deer stamp at $30 for residents and $80 for nonresidents, but that, too, is being cut from the bill, Peditto said.
A chart of the latest proposal shows that, along with the increases, two fees would decrease, both for junior hunters (younger than 16 years old).
Landowners, former prisoners of war, and active-duty veterans wounded in combat would continue to have free hunting opportunities, according to the department.
DNR is holding a public meeting in Hagerstown on Tuesday to discuss the new hunting fees, as well as proposed hunting and trapping regulations.
The meeting will be at 7 p.m. at South Hagerstown High School at 1101 S. Potomac St.
To read the bills (before DNR’s amendments):
- http://mlis.state.md.us/2012rs/billfile/hb1307.htm (boating)
- http://mlis.state.md.us/2012rs/billfile/hb1419.htm (hunting)