COLUMBIA — Hunters, anglers and trappers will have to dig deeper into their pockets next year. The Conservation Commission has increased permit prices across the board and increased the minimum land acreage from five to 80 acres for landowners to qualify for free landowner permits.
By increasing permit prices, the Conservation Department expects a projected increase in revenue of $5 million for the 2009 permit year.
Some of these changes, effective March 1, include increasing resident hunting and fishing permits from $19 to $22, migratory bird from $6 to $8, resident archer's deer and turkey from $19 to $23, resident firearms deer hunting from $17 to $20, and nonresident firearms deer hunting from $175 to $225.
"We understand that people don't like price increases, especially from a government agency," said Greg Jones of the Missouri Department of Conservation. "Costs go up for everything. We have to pay the same prices for gasoline and equipment that everyone else does in order to maintain the level of service for our constituents."
Jones said the Conservation Department goes through a periodic re-evaluation process to review operating expenses, projected revenue needs for five to six years and how Missouri's prices compare to other states.
"In general we try to keep our permit prices low compared to other states," Jones said.
According to the Department of Conservation's 2007 permit distribution and sales summary, Missouri permit prices are one of the lowest when compared to surrounding states. For the 2008 permit year — which mirrors the hunting season, beginning March 1 and continuing through the following February — Nebraska's resident hunting and fishing combination permit costs $53.50 and Kansas' nonresident firearm deer permit costs $395.00.
"We have cheap entertainment as far as we're concerned with hunting and fishing," said Lee Brandkamp, owner of Powder Horn Guns & Archery.
Brandkamp said he does not think most of the public has heard of the changes, but he has "heard some grumblings from people already."
"As far as public opinion goes, any time you raise permit prices, people aren't happy," Brandkamp said.
Under the proposal, on July 1 free landowner deer and turkey permits will only be available to those owning a contiguous 80 acres, instead of the previous minimum of five acres.
Bill Heatherly, wildlife programs supervisor for the Department of Conservation, said that any number would be arbitrary, but that the goal was to better reflect the original intent of acknowledging the production landowner.
"Back in the old days when it was first started, it was for production landowners who derived a significant income from the land. Basically, farmers," Heatherly said.
Heatherly said approximately 78,000 people will be affected by the landowner changes.
The free landowner permits allow the purchaser to hunt on their own land. Permits must be purchased in order to hunt in other areas. Heatherly said that about a third of the affected landowners already purchase permits.
Lessees will no longer qualify for landowner privileges under the new rules.
Hunters have 30 days to comment on the proposal to the Department of Conservation.
Boone County ranks eleventh in the state in terms of permit sales, totaling 43,249 permits for the 2007 permit year according to the 2007 permit and sales summary. Missouri permit sales decreased from 2.10 to 2.01 million from 2003 to 2004, and have remained close to the 2 million mark since. In terms of dollars, sales have been fairly stable the last few years, accumulating $32.01 million in the 2007 permit year.
Other changes that will go into effect between March and July 2009 include eliminating youth deer and turkey hunting permits; setting a resident and nonresident youth discount of 50 percent; creating resident senior "forever" permits; allowing nonresident college and technical school students to purchase resident permits; and establishing a light goose Conservation Order Permit.
For a complete listing of amendments and the reasoning behind the changes, go to http://mdc.mo.gov/regs/permitfaq.htm.