The state legislature recently approved hunting license fee increases, a change the Division of Wildlife resources said was a much needed and critical boost.
According to the Division of Wildlife Resources, the approval of the hunting license fee increases will help put the group back on stable financial ground, allow it to fill some of its vacant positions and do habitat work critical to deer and other wildlife.
Nonresidents will be those most affected by the fee increase, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2005. The DWR should receive an additional $1.7 million a year through the increase.
"The continued drought, a slow economy and rangeland fires are among several things that have impacted the division's budget over the past few years," said Greg Sheehan of DWR Administrative Services. "We've spent nearly $1 million more than we've taken in each of the last several years."
To try and cut costs, the DWR has left 25 positions vacant and cut spending in almost all of its programs. There are also several habitat projects the division has not been able to carry out.
The DWR asserts that even with all of the cost cutting, the group was close to running out of surplus money.
"Our budget surplus was getting to a critical level. That's a dangerous situation to be in with chronic wasting disease and all of the other situations that can impact a wildlife agency financially," Sheehan said. "It will be a lifesaver to have this additional revenue that can be used to build that surplus again."
Over the next few months, DWR staff will determine how to spend money that isn't put into the surplus. Filling vacant positions and using the money for habitat work to benefit deer and other wildlife are two possible ways the funds might be used.
A walk-in access program that would provide hunters and anglers with access to private property is another development that may await sportsmen in future years.
Resident and nonresident wild turkey hunters will not be required to purchase a small game license under the new legislation, which should simplify the process of obtaining a wild turkey hunting permit.
The legislature also approved a fee for a premium limited entry bull elk permit. There aren't any premium limited entry bull elk units in Utah, but some existing limited entry bull elk units could be changed to premium units.
For detailed information on fee increases, visit the Division of Wildlife website at www.wildlife.utah.gov