One of the things that makes Louisiana "Louisiana" is the whole "Sportsman's Paradise" thing: the abundance of fishing and hunting opportunities.

From the salty waters of the Gulf of Mexico to the freshwater lakes that dot the upper portion of our state to the in-between of our marshes and bayous, lots of fishing takes place in our state. In many of those same areas, you'll find hunters blinded-up for ducks and geese (well, maybe not in the Gulf, but you get the picture).

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Pasttime for some, necessity for others, our love for hunting, fishing, and crabbing makes up a great deal of who we are as a people. And soon it might cost us more to enjoy those things.

WHY MAY THE FEES BE HIGHER?

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is asking our lawmakers to consider an increase in recreational hunting, fishing, and other usage fees. According to KLFY, the LDWF is experiencing a budget gap, and a fee increase (estimated to produce an additional $17M in revenue) should alleviate the issue.

As it stands, Governor Edwards is planning to take the $17M needed to close the gap from the general fund, but according to KLFY, the Secretary of the LDWF thinks that money should come from those who participate in the activities, not the general public.

WHEN WAS THE LAST FEE HIKE?

That's a great question. According to the story, the Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Jack Montoucet, says that there hasn't been a fee increase in 20 years. Combine that with the fact that more people are taking advantage of lifetime licenses and oil revenue in lands designated as wildlife management areas is declining, revenue for LDWF is somewhat stagnant compared to real life. In real life, costs are going up. This is what is creating the revenue gap, and the need to increase usage and licensing fees.

WHEN WILL WE KNOW IF THE FEES WILL GO UP?

Not until the legislation is written, submitted, and passed so, June-ish? When the subject came up two years ago, the can got kicked down the road. We didn't have to walk far to find the can again and who knows whether lawmakers will see the need to raise the fees. On one hand, it's a tough call any time you have to raise fees. In this case, since fees haven't gone up in 20 years, I think it'll be an easier call to make.

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WHAT'S YOUR FINAL TAKE ON THIS ISSUE?

My take? Well, thanks for asking!  Anytime you have a rate increase, it affects some more than others. When I get to the landing to launch the boat, I see some people with boats on trailers that have 3 sets of wheels on them, and I see some people launch flat-bottom boats out of the back of their trucks. I'm not worried about those with the means to hardly be affected by a rate hike, but I feel for those who are fishing (or hunting) with the intent of feeding their families. Would it be fair to charge on a sliding scale?

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HOW CAN WE FIX THIS ISSUE FOR THE FUTURE?

Another great question! Here's how to fix it: grant the rate increase requested by the LDWF, and then put a regular rate increase on the books. Whether it's every 2 years or every 5 years, raise the fees a nominal amount. (I would recommend following the prior year's cost of living increase.) That way, we'll be expecting it, and it'll keep LDWF funded so we can keep hunting and fishing!

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