Hunting, fishing in state to cost more

Washington anglers and hunters will soon see several changes in recreational license fees that were approved by the Legislature to help maintain state fishing and hunting opportunities.

The changes, which include a temporary surcharge on fishing and hunting licenses, will help offset a $30 million cutback in state funding for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said Joe Stohr, the department's deputy director.

In all, the new fees approved by the Legislature are expected to raise $11 million for fish and wildlife management over the next two years, Stohr said.

Changes in license fees include:

Two-year surcharge: A temporary, 10 percent surcharge on sales of recreational licenses, permits, tags, stamps and raffle tickets. The surcharge takes effect July 26 and will be in place until June 30, 2011. It is the first across-the-board recreational license fee increase in more than a decade.

Two-pole option: A new license option allows anglers to use two fishing poles in specific waters for an additional, annual fee of $20 ($5 for resident seniors). The two-pole option will be available after state rules are adopted designating waters where two fishing poles will be allowed.

Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead endorsement pilot program: A new $7.50 annual fee for adult anglers who fish the Columbia River and its tributaries for salmon and steelhead. The fee will take effect next year and be in place through 2014.

The Columbia River Recreational Salmon and Steelhead Pilot Program, which is exempt from the new two-year surcharge, will provide funding to maintain and improve salmon and steelhead fishing opportunities in the Columbia River.

Stohr said none of the new fees are reflected in this year's fishing or big-game hunting pamphlets, which were printed before the Legislature took action.

All of the licenses and permits will also be subject to existing dealers' fees and transaction fees, which help offset the cost of the permitting process.

In addition to legislative initiatives, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved a measure at its July 10-11 meeting in Olympia that authorizes license dealers to begin charging a 50-cent handling fee for each migratory-bird permit they issue.

The state currently mails out those permits, but plans to move to point-of-sale distribution by license dealers starting Sept. 1.

Officials said the new process is expected to save the department $20,000 per year in staff time and mailing costs, while also expediting the receipt of hunter reports used in managing the harvest of brant, snow geese and other migratory birds.