A year ago when the Regulations Committee began its annual review of the Wildlife Code of Missouri, the main topic was how to continue providing quality hunting and fishing opportunities with the rising costs of supplies and the likelihood of continued lagging revenue from the 1/8th of 1 percent sales tax—the Department’s main funding source. Raising permit prices, many of which haven’t been raised in more than five years, and some as long as 10 years, was suggested.
Another idea was to find more ways to return federal excise tax to Missouri. Federal excise tax is collected whenever anyone purchases hunting and fishing equipment. The money is distributed to the states based on the number of hunters and anglers who purchase a hunting or fishing permit that year. Those who do not purchase at least one permit, such as many seniors and some landowners, see their federal excise tax sent to other states. Obviously, we’d prefer Missourian’s tax payment be directed to the payers’ home state.
The rationale for increasing revenue was to continue services that Missourians have come to expect. With current funding, the Department will have less money to spend on fish stocking, dove hunting fields, wetland management, landowner assistance, law enforcement, education and other programs. The plan to bring in additional money included:
The Commission passed the permit package at the end of September just as news of the looming economic crisis began to arrive, and Missourians let us know in a flurry of phone calls, e-mails and visits that they did not like some of the proposals, especially in tough economic times. As a result, we will not raise resident prices in 2009. In fact, prices for youth permits have been lowered. Nonresidents, however, will pay more. The senior permit package was scrapped because new federal laws may provide fewer returns than initially expected from this program. Also, resident landowners of five or more acres will continue to get the same number of no-cost permits as they did last year.
While some might not agree with the decisions made this year, Department staff listened to all comments and remain committed to protecting the resources that Missourians value. Below are the regulation changes that will take effect July 1, 2009.
One of the Department’s goals is to provide more opportunities for youth to hunt and fish. Beginning July 1, several changes will help these efforts.
In the past, ages and qualifications varied for mentoring novice firearms hunters. As of July 1, when mentoring any firearms hunter who is not hunter-education certified, all mentors, including landowners hunting on their own land, must be at least 18 years old and hunter-education certified unless they were born before Jan. 1, 1967. This may affect some landowners who are 42 years of age or younger even if they only hunt on their own land. They will be required to be hunter-education certified to be a mentor on their own land, but not to hunt themselves on their own land.
Nonresident permit prices will increase in July, and the reduced-cost nonresident landowner deer and turkey hunting permits will no longer be available after the 2009 spring turkey hunting season. Many nonresident landowners feel that they should continue to receive reduced-cost permits because they pay property tax, but the Conservation Department doesn’t receive funding from property tax, which funds local schools and other local government programs. Many Missourians feel that nonresidents should pay more because they do not contribute to the sales tax throughout the year. In setting the cost of nonresident permits, the Department tries to balance the desires of those wishing to return to Missouri to hunt with family and friends with a fair cost for the premier deer and turkey hunt opportunities Missouri provides. Our nonresident permits continue to be priced lower than most surrounding states.
The new Conservation Order Permit will be required for residents and nonresidents age 16 and older to pursue, take, possess and transport blue, snow or Ross’s geese beginning with the 2010 Conservation Order. The $5 fee for residents and $40 for nonresidents will help offset costs associated with administering the Conservation Order in Missouri. Costs include providing public hunting opportunities on conservation areas, conducting a post-season survey, obtaining and reporting information as required by the federal government, maintaining a Web site and enforcement.
Sometimes regulations celebrate wildlife success stories. This year the barn owl, bald eagle and Western foxsnake were removed from the list of endangered species in Missouri. The bald eagle has made a dramatic comeback across the United States. Reported sightings of the Western foxsnake have increased, probably due to successful wetland restoration projects. Barn owls remain rare in Missouri, but nest box programs are helping to offset local population declines when old barns and sheds are torn down.
To help protect Missouri’s native species, black carp, a snail- and mussel-eating fish from China, has been added to the list of species that cannot be brought into the state. Also, quagga mussels, an exotic species similar to the zebra mussel, have been put on the prohibited species list. Both of these species could harm native mussel populations and change the ecology of our rivers, streams and lakes.
Wild ginseng now may be purchased, sold, transported or exported in dried form only from Sept. 15 through March 15. The two-week delay for selling dry roots will bring Missouri’s regulations in line with most other states that allow ginseng harvest and may reduce the amount of illegal digging of wild roots before the Sept. 1 harvest date.
Worldwide demand for caviar continues to generate substantial commercial harvest of roe-bearing fish. To allow Missourians to harvest bowfin and paddlefish as well as shovelnose sturgeon, the Resident Shovelnose Sturgeon Commercial Harvest Permit was changed to Resident Roe Fish Commercial Harvest Permit. Recently established roe harvester permits in Illinois allowed Missouri to recognize reciprocal fishing privileges for Illinois commercial fishers in Missouri with the Nonresident Mississippi River Roe Fish Commercial Harvest Permit. The price was raised to match the price of the Illinois nonresident permit. Also, a Roe Fish Dealer Permit was established to help track commerce in roe, and it matches similar permit requirements in other states and assists enforcement efforts.
Geocaching and letterboxing are popular outdoor activities. To provide Missourians additional opportunities to enjoy conservation areas, these activities will be added to the list of recreational opportunities allowed by Special Use Permit starting April 30. These permits, which allow a person to set up a geocaching or letterbox site on appropriate conservation areas, will be available from the area managers. Some areas, such as natural areas, may not be suitable for geocaching and letterboxing.
Each year the Regulations Committee reviews the Wildlife Code of Missouri to ensure the state’s forests, fish and wildlife are protected. Here’s how the process works.
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