Sunday, July 13, 2014

What can $1 buy? Possibly a fishing license

March 30. 2013 3:56PM

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Would you buy a fishing license if it only cost $1?

Sure you would.

How about if that same license was $1 and voluntary? Would you still hand over a dollar for a license even if you weren’t required to possess one to fish?

That’s a question that the state’s youth may be faced with as the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission look for ways to increase revenue without raising license fees.

During a public forum with the PFBC last week at Luzerne County Community College (hosted by state Rep. Gerald Mullery’s office), commissioner Norm Gavlick, who represents the Northeast Region, was questioned about talk that the agency may close two hatcheries and reduce the number of trout stocked by about 750,000 (the hatcheries have since been granted a reprieve).

It was a concern to anglers in attendance. Some even suggested that the agency raise license fees and seemed very willing to pay a little more if it meant preventing a cut in trout production. I wasn’t surprised. Just as deer hunting drives the Pennsylvania Game Commission, trout fishing is just as big to the PFBC, and anglers.

But Gavlick cautioned that a license fee hike usually results in a drop in anglers - 10 percent the following year. With fewer licenses being sold, the PFBC would receive less reimbursement from the federal government.

“We don’t want to raise license fees,” he said. “There are possible changes being looked at now.”

One of them, according to Gavlick, is the implementation of a youth fishing license for those under 16. The parameters have yet to be defined and talk is preliminary, but the goal is to sell more licenses - without raising fees, and realize more federal reimbursement.

Gavlick acknowledged that elected officials have voiced their opposition to a youth license in the past, but there’s a twist that could now change opinions.

Rather than make a youth license mandatory, the permit could be voluntary, Gavlick said. And it could carry a nominal fee - say a dollar, so cost wouldn’t be an issue.

But why would someone spend even a buck on something they aren’t required to have in order to fish?

Because it would help the agency and, in the bigger picture, fishing in general. The agency’s federal reimbursement is based on the number of licenses sold. A voluntary youth license for a dollar would count.

And kids would want it. Every child wants to feel grown up like their parents, and buying their very own fishing license would make them feel “just like mom or dad” as they head out to a favorite trout stream or lake. A parent could start a tradition of buying their child a youth license every year, without breaking the bank, and the agency would get some much needed revenue in the form of the federal reimbursement.

Not bad for a buck.

Hatcheries to stay open… for now

During a special meeting on March 22, the PFBC board voted to keep the Oswayo and Bellefonte hatcheries open for at least two more years while the agency and the state legislature look for a long-term funding source. The PFBC announced on Jan. 25 that it would close the Oswayo and Bellefonte hatcheries by the end of 2014 as part of a budget plan to save $9 million annually over the next four years. Approximately $6.7 million is needed in order to meet escalating health-care and retirement obligations for employees, and $2.3 million is needed for infrastructure needs, such as maintenance and repairs, at remaining hatcheries, other facilities and boating access areas. Closing the two hatcheries would save approximately $2 million annually. PFBC staff and commissioner have already met with some legislators to identify possible funding sources.

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