Game Commission considers hike in hunting license fees

HARRISBURG – Legislation that would authorize Pennsylvania’s first hunting-license fee increase in more than 17 years was introduced Friday in the state Senate.

Senate Bill 1148 of 2015 would increase the fee for a resident general hunting or furtaker license by $10, from $19 to $29.

Resident and nonresident junior and senior license fees would not be increased under the proposal.

But fees for a number of other resident and nonresident licenses, including bear, antlerless deer and archery licenses, also would be increased if the bill becomes law.

Additionally, the bill would create an inclusive combination license called the Ultimate Outdoorsman, for which residents paying the $110 fee would receive their general license, furtaker license, archery license, muzzleloader license, bear license, special wild turkey license and migratory game bird license.

Nonresidents would pay $350 for the Ultimate Outdoorsman license, based on the proposal.

Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough said the measure, if approved in a timely manner, would provide the game commission with sustainable funding to enable the agency to meet the goals and objectives outlined by its 2015-2020 strategic plan.

“Seventeen years is a long time, and I’m sure almost everyone can relate to how costs have escalated since the last license-fee increase took effect in 1999,” Hough said. “Without a single increase to cover the cost of inflation during that time, it has become increasingly difficult to stretch the same dollar any further, and we are at the point now where we have needed to make some very difficult decisions to cut staff and scale back programs solely for budgetary reasons.

“The license-fee increase proposed by Senators McIlhinney, Brewster, Alloway and Scavello, would put the Game Commission back on solid financial footing, and the sooner this proposal is approved, the better for the state’s wildlife, and its hunters and trappers, and all citizens of the Commonwealth who care about wildlife,” Hough said.

Unlike many state agencies, the game commission does not receive tax money from the state’s general fund to help pay for staff and operations. Instead, the Game Commission is funded almost exclusively by the state’s hunters and trappers.

Today in Pennsylvania, almost 35 percent of the game commission’s revenue comes from the sale of hunting and furtaker licenses. Other primary sources of income include federal Pittman-Robertson funds collected from an excise tax on sporting arms and ammunition, and revenue derived from the sale of natural resources like timber, oil and gas on lands owned by the Game Commission.

The state’s hunters and trappers have demonstrated clear support for a license-fee increase. Thirteen of the Pennsylvania’s major sportsmen’s organizations with statewide membership have formally supported a license-fee increase.

The Game Commission last summer introduced a proposal to increase hunting-license fees, and now that the legislation has been introduced, the commission is placing its full support behind the bill.