DWR seeks input about proposed fee changes

People are encouraged to attend a series of upcoming public meetings and provide the Division of Wildlife Resources with their ideas about some license and fee changes the division is considering.

The changes would change the way hunters apply for a permit in the state's big game drawings. They would also provide the agency with some much-needed funding.

The DWR will present its ideas at a series of public meetings that begin at the end of July.

Those who attend the meetings can learn more about the DWR's ideas and can provide their own ideas and suggestions. The DWR will consider the input it receives as it forms recommendations that it will take to the public again at a series of meetings in September.

The DWR will also present a proposal at the upcoming meetings to establish a separate goose-hunting zone in northern Utah this fall. Recommendations that would probably result in hunters taking about the same number of cougars in Utah this season as they took last season also will be presented.

Meeting dates, times and locations are as follows:

Fee change ideas

The DWR is considering some fee change ideas that would provide the agency with some much-needed funding. These ideas are being presented at the upcoming meetings as informational items only and will not be acted on. After receiving input from the public, the DWR will bring the recommendations back to the public for action at meetings in September.

One of the changes the DWR is currently considering would affect how the state's big game drawing is conducted. This idea would likely result in fewer people applying for a Utah limited entry or once-in-a-lifetime big game permit. Reducing the number of applicants would provide the remaining applicants with a better chance at drawing a permit.

"Right now, it costs $5 to apply for a big game permit in Utah," says Greg Sheehan, Administrative Services Section chief for the DWR. "That's among the lowest fees in the western states, and we believe it's one of the main reasons the number of people applying for big game permits in Utah has been climbing for years."

While the number of applicants continues to climb, the number of permits for which to apply hasn't changed much. For example, in 1998, more than 50,000 people applied for about 4,000 permits. In 2006, more than 144,000 people applied for about 4,400 permits.

In 1998, an average of about 13 applications were submitted for every permit that was available. By 2006, that number had climbed to an average of 32 applications per permit.

Jim Karpowitz, director of the DWR, says limited entry and once-in-a-lifetime permits have become very difficult to draw in Utah and that the agency would like to make the few permits that it does have available to people who are willing to partner with the agency to manage the state's wildlife.

"All of our new ideas provide a reasonable and equitable way to distribute the costs of wildlife management to all hunters, as well as to those who participate in the drawing but don't hunt the rest of the year," Karpowitz said.

The DWR is considering three ideas. The agency is asking members of the public to help it choose ONE of them or to provide the agency with some ideas of their own (each idea would generate about $3.7 million in new revenue):

Option 1 (DWR's preferred option):

Before applying in any draw or buying any hunting permit, all hunters, including big game hunters, would be required to buy a hunting license. In addition to allowing the holder to apply for a permit or buy a permit, a hunting license would also allow the holder to hunt small game.

The license would cost $17. Instead of buying a hunting license, hunters could choose to buy a $34 combination license that would also allow them to fish.

This option has two advantages:

Option 2:

In addition to paying the $5 application fee, big game applicants who wanted a bonus point or a preference point would be required to purchase one for $24. Unsuccessful applicants would no longer receive bonus points and preference points for free. Hunters would not have to pay for points that they had accrued in past years.

Option 3:

Hunters could apply in all five of the once-in-a-lifetime draws, and purchase one bonus point for each of the once-in-a-lifetime draws and one bonus point for the limited entry draw. The cost for each bonus point would be $12 per bonus point. Hunters would not have to pay for points that they had accrued in past years. The application fee would remain at $5 per species.

In addition to the ideas about big game fee changes, the DWR is seeking input about some additional fee changes. One of those changes would require that those who don't have a hunting or fishing license pay a fee to visit the state's wildlife and waterfowl management areas (WMAs).

A Watchable Wildlife pass would be available for $10 and would allow the purchaser access to the state's WMAs for 365 days from the day the pass was purchased. The pass would also provide the holder access to all of the Watchable Wildlife events and festivals in Utah for which a fee is charged to attend.

The DWR is also suggesting that a new $5 fishing license be required for 12- and 13-year-old anglers. "For every license sold to these young anglers, the division would collect $14 in federal aid. That money would then be invested in fish hatcheries and other programs that would make fishing better in the state," Karpowitz said.

"To continue managing Utah's wildlife effectively, we have to raise more revenue," Karpowitz said. "If we don't, Utah's wildlife will suffer and so will everyone who enjoys wildlife in the state."

Other agenda items

In addition to input about the fee ideas, the DWR is also seeking input about some additional items. The Utah Wildlife Board is expected to act on the following items when it meets in Salt Lake City on Aug. 17:

Cougar hunting recommendations

Cougar hunting proposals the DWR is recommending would probably result in about 325 cougars being taken in Utah during the state's 2006 2007 season. That's similar to the 332 cougars taken during the 2005 2006 season and the 321 taken during the 2004 2005 season.

"An effort has been underway in Utah for years to reduce the number of cougars in the state, and it appears those efforts have worked," says Kevin Bunnell, mammals program coordinator for the DWR. "Now we're shifting the emphasis from trying to reduce the number of cougars to maintaining a balance between cougars and the deer, bighorn sheep and other animals cougars prey on."

Goose hunting zone in northern Utah

A separate Canada goose hunting zone in northern Utah is the major waterfowl hunting change the DWR is proposing for the upcoming season.

The zone would include all of Cache and Rich counties, and the northeast portion of Box Elder County. The goose hunt in the zone would begin at the start of the waterfowl season in October and would run until mid-January.

The goose-hunting season in the remainder of the state would be a split season, but it would be a bit different from last year. The season would begin in early October, and then it would close during the last week in October. The season would then reopen and run until the end of January.

"Federal law only allows the goose hunting season to be a certain number of days," said Tom Aldrich, migratory game bird coordinator for the DWR. "Last year we wanted to allow hunters to hunt geese in late January. That's the time of year when geese begin leaving urban areas along the Wasatch Front and start visiting the marshes again to begin the breeding and nesting season."

The season had to be closed for two weeks last year to allow hunters to hunt geese at the beginning of the season and still have some days available to hunt in late January. Because the general waterfowl season will open one week later this year (on Oct. 7) closing the goose season for only one week will still leave hunters with enough days to hunt into late January.

Aldrich says some of the hunters in northern Utah, and some of the state and federal agency waterfowl managers in the area, have indicated they'd like to go back to a straight season. "That's why we're recommending a zone with an early, straight season for that area this year," he said.

For more information, contact the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office or the DWR's Salt Lake City office at (801) 538-4700.