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Higher hunting, fishing fees sought
State conservation commissioner to ask Legislature for first increase since 1989

MONTGOMERY (AP) — Alabama's hunting, fishing and boating fees, which were last changed in 1989, will go up if the state conservation commissioner can persuade the Legislature next month.

Commissioner Barnett Lawley said the time has come for the Legislature to approve higher fees, which help the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources operate Alabama's outdoors programs.

"Since 1989, everybody knows what the cost of living has done to them personally," Lawley told the New York Times Regional Newspapers.

Lawley said the department's advisory committee recommended new fees that he will take to the Legislature when its regular session begins March 6. The advisory committee recommended increasing the cost of an annual resident hunting license from $16 to $24 and a resident fishing license from $9.50 to $12.

Other fees

Lawley said he isn't sure what he'll recommend for saltwater fishing licenses, out-of-state licenses and boat registration licenses. Boat registration fees support the department's Marine Police division.

Lawley also said he wants license fees subject to adjustment each year based on a cost-of-living index, with the state Legislative Council given the authority to adjust the fees. He said small annual increases to keep pace with inflation are better than big increases every 10 or 20 years.

Tim Gothard, executive director of the Alabama Wildlife Federation, said he supports the proposal.

"We've got basically what amounts to the lowest resident hunting and fishing license fees in the Southeast United States," Gothard said. "To their credit, hunters and anglers historically have stepped up to the plate and said we want to fund through our license purchases the wildlife and fisheries management program necessary for us to enjoy the game populations."

Need for funds

Russellville deer hunter Travis Wammack said the department is doing a good job with deer management, and it appears to need the money.

"There might be a lot of people probably who would complain, but I just really, really don't think it would affect anyone," Wammack said.

State Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, an avid hunter and chairman of one of two Senate budget committees, said he isn't sure whether he'll support fee increases because he hasn't been asked to support them.

"I've had no hunter or fisherman request me to raise their license fees, so far," Bedford said.

Lawley said he also wants to create a voluntary $10 wildlife heritage license to support wildlife viewing and habitat. The $10 would be used to match federal funds for use on habitat.

"Although it would entitle you to some small game hunting possibilities, that would be directed more to wildlife watchers," Lawley said. "A bird watcher is just as passionate as a guy trying to kill a 10-point buck."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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