Phase two of public input process begins; comments accepted through July 20, webcast to be conducted on June 25
The Arizona Game and Fish Commission approved a draft hunting and fishing license structure and license/tag fees at its June 15 meeting in Payson, Ariz. The proposal will now be taken to the public for a 30-day comment period from June 20 to July 20, 2013.
A webcast on the draft structure and fees will be conducted at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 25. The webcast can be viewed at www.azgfd.gov/webcast, or the public is welcome to view it at any of the Game and Fish offices. Members of the public who view the webcast at department offices will have the opportunity to ask questions of department staff at those offices after conclusion of the webcast. The ability to ask questions will not be available to those viewing the webcast online.
In approving the draft, the commission took into consideration a variety of factors, including comments on the conceptual license structure and fees received during Phase 1 of the public input process in May and June. The Game and Fish Department received 658 comments from more than 200 people who attended 17 public meetings, and received more than 800 comments via e-mail. The department also conducted a science-based mail survey of hunters and anglers and received more than 1,480 responses.
One of the most discussed concepts was that of a “premium” hunt structure for certain deer and elk hunts. Based on the public comment received — predominantly against the premium concept — the commission did not include a premium hunt structure in the draft proposal.
Other factors the commission took into consideration in approving the draft were prior statutory fee caps, the opportunity to simplify the license structure and offer bundled privileges for more value, removal of barriers for the recruitment of new hunters and anglers, reduced cost for youth, and the need to maintain department revenue and services.
Some of the key features of the new proposal are:
- The proposed license structure is simplified to nine license options and a migratory bird stamp, reduced from the current structure of more than 40 license and stamp options that often caused confusion among customers.
- The proposal would make a new hunting or fishing license valid for one year from the date of purchase. Currently, a license is valid only for the calendar year in which it was purchased, regardless of when it was purchased.
- Some licenses would have combined privileges (and eliminate the need for separate stamps) at a discount over what those privileges would cost if purchased separately. For example, the proposed price of a resident general fishing license would increase from the current $23.50 to $37, but the new license would include the privileges of a general license, trout stamp, two-pole stamp, a community (urban) fishing license, and Colorado River stamps for Arizona’s shared waters with California and Nevada (dependent on agreements under negotiation with those states). This is a savings of $32.75 over those licenses and stamps if purchased separately under the current structure, or a savings of $16 over the current “Super Fishing” license.
- The proposal creates a new “youth license” at a significantly reduced price of $5 each year for individuals from ages 10-17. The youth license includes hunting and migratory bird privileges (a tag for big game is still required) and fishing privileges (general, trout stamp, community license, and two-pole stamp, and Colorado River CA/NV stamps, depending on agreements with those states).
- Most tag fees would be increased under the proposal. For example, a deer tag would cost $45 for residents (up from the current $34.75) and $300 for nonresidents (up from $225.25). An elk tag would cost $135 for residents (up from the current $114) and $650 for nonresidents (up from $587.50). In all cases, the tag increases do not exceed the former fee caps under which the commission previously had authorization prior to passage of SB 1223, and in most cases the proposed tag fees are still less than the old caps.
- This would be the first increase in license and tag fees since 2007. At that time the Game and Fish Commission made a commitment to sportsmen/sportswomen that it wouldn’t raise fees again for at least five years. The commission and department have honored that commitment despite the challenges presented by the economy over the past several years. Any increases that may ultimately be approved through this proposal would not go into effect until 2014, or seven years since the last increase.
- Based on public input, the commission decided not to implement a “premium hunt structure” for certain deer and elk tags. The majority of the public comments were against the concept of a premium structure.
- The commission directed the department to propose an increase in the hunt permit-tag application fee to $13 for residents and $15 for nonresidents (up from the current $7.50), with $3 of the resident fee and $5 of the nonresident fee to be dedicated to hunter access and habitat enhancements.
A summary sheet of the proposed draft license structure and fees, the department’s Draft Notice of Exempt Rulemaking, and the public comments received on the license and fee concepts presented in May-June, can be found at www.azgfd.gov/LicenseSimplification. Comment can be provided through July 20, 2013, via e-mail at LicenseSimplification@azgfd.gov or via U.S. mail to Arizona Game and Fish Department, License Simplification Comment, Attn: Ben Alteneder, 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086.
The commission will review and take into consideration the “Phase 2” public comments on the draft before approving a final license structure and fees, anticipated in August. The goal is to have a new structure and fees implemented by Jan. 1, 2014.
The process for setting the new structure and fees was authorized by the recent passage of SB 1223, which allows the Arizona Game and Fish Commission to set future hunting and fishing license structure and fees directly through a streamlined, customer-focused process as opposed to the former complex and time-consuming legislative and regular rulemaking process. (The commission already had the ability to raise fees up to the fee cap under its previous authority). It gives the Game and Fish Department the ability to operate more like a business and react to changing market conditions and customer needs in a timely manner. The bill was signed by Gov. Brewer on May 7 and was supported by 24 sportsmen’s organizations.
For more information, visit www.azgfd.gov/LicenseSimplification.
Logo courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Department