First posted on 10-01-2008
A one-time fee could let hunters and anglers coast into their outdoor Golden years and secure extra federal money for fish and wildlife.
A new set of permits created by the Missouri Conservation Commission at its September meeting will save money for Missourians approaching retirement age while ensuring that the Show-Me State takes full advantage of federal wildlife funding.
The commission created a new class of “forever” hunting and fishing permits. The idea is one of many that emerged from a year-long review of hunting and fishing permits and associated regulations by the Missouri Department of Conservation Regulations Committee.
“Missouri’s hunting and fishing permits and our rules about who can get them have been evolving for the better part of a century,” said Conservation Department Assistant Director Dave Erickson. “The system embodies a lot of experience and wisdom. But like any system that grows by adding on stuff year after year, it also has some inconsistencies that need to be addressed. We formed a special committee to do that last year, and they brought their findings – along with what I think are some fantastic recommendations for change – to the Conservation Commission.”
Among those recommendations is one to address unintended consequences of granting free hunting and fishing privileges to senior citizens. Since the 1970s, the Conservation Department has exempted Missouri residents 65 and older from the requirement to buy fishing and small-game hunting permits. The exemption was intended to help seniors living on fixed incomes. Seniors still had to buy permits for some activities, including trout fishing and hunting migratory birds, deer and turkey.
The agency always recognized it was giving up some revenue with the senior exemption. In recent years, however, a new dimension has been added to that effect. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service divides money from federal excise taxes on hunting and fishing goods among states to help manage game and fish. Each state’s allocation depends partly on how many paid license holders it has. Consequently, Missouri’s policy of not selling fishing and small-game hunting permits to seniors cuts into its share of that federal money.
Meanwhile, other states are finding ways to get senior citizens back on the permit-buying rolls, further cutting into Missouri’s share of federal money.
“Our share of the pot will continue to get smaller if we don’t do something similar to what other states are doing,” said Erickson.
The Regulations Committee formed a Permit Restructuring Task Group to find a way to maximize federal money without penalizing seniors. The solution they devised involves a new class of permits that are available to Missouri residents 60 and older. Those who buy “forever” permits never have to buy another permit to fish or hunt small game.
The Senior Fish Forever Permit is a life permit to take fish, frogs, mussels, clams, turtles, crayfish and live bait. The Senior Hunt Forever Permit entitles holders to hunt small game for life. A Senior Hunt and Fish Forever Permit combines the privileges available in the other two.
Resident Small Game Hunting Permits cost $10 per year, so a 60-year-old hunter who bought this permit every year until he turned 65, the current age when permits no longer are needed would spend $50. Resident Fishing Permits cost $12 a year, making the investment for the last five years of permit-buying $60. Resident Hunting and Fishing Permits cost $19, for a five-year investment of $95
By comparison, a Senior Hunt or Fish Forever permit costs $24 if purchased between the ages of 60 and 63, or $12 if purchased at age 64 or older. A Senior Hunt and Fish Forever Permit costs $48 for those age 60 through 63 or $24 at age 64 or older.
“We created a significant financial incentive to buy these permits,” said Erickson. “Hunters or anglers who buy one as soon as they are eligible save $26 or $36. Buying the Forever Hunt and Fish Permit at age 60 saves you $47.”
Erickson said the payoff for the Conservation Department is a substantial increase in federal fish and wildlife conservation money. By getting people on the permit-buying rolls, the Conservation Department is able to claim them for federal reimbursement purposes for up to 12 years.
“The earlier they buy, the more they save, and the longer we get to claim them,” said Erickson. “They spend money one time for a ‘forever’ permit, but we get to claim them several times.”
He said another reason the system will benefit Missouri is “churn.”
“Not every hunter or angler buys a permit every year,” he said. “People don’t quit being hunters or anglers just because they miss buying a permit, but we don’t get to claim them unless they buy a permit every year. When people buy one of these ‘forever’ permits, that puts them on the rolls for the duration. We don’t lose money on account of churn, even if they don’t hunt or fish some years.”
The Senior Fish Forever Permit does not include trout fishing privileges. Erickson said revenue from the sale of Trout Permits and daily trout tags sold in trout parks is needed to support the intensive hatchery-rearing programs that make trout fishing possible in Missouri. Similarly, the Senior Hunt Forever Permit does not include deer and turkey hunting or migratory bird hunting permits, which support intensive management efforts.
At the same time it approved these new permits, the Conservation Commission also dropped the discount on lifetime hunting and fishing permits for those 60 and older. At present, the price for a Resident Lifetime Fishing or Resident Small-Game Hunting permit is $35 for those 60 and older. The price for a Resident Lifetime Conservation Partner Permit, combining hunting and fishing privileges, is $70. The same privileges are available at lower cost under the “forever” permit system.
“Forever permits are the most economical lifetime permits ever available to Missourians,” said Erickson.
Senior hunt and fish forever permits will be available March 1, 2009.
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