Hunting Fee Increase Not Happening in Del. after Council Vote - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Hunting Fee Increase Not Happening in Del. after Council Vote

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DOVER, Del. (WBOC) - A hike in the cost to hunt and trap in Delaware is now a no-go after a decision from the state's Wildlife Advisory Council Tuesday night.

The council voted not to support raising fees. And according to DNREC'S Division of Fish and Wildlife, the increase can't happen without the council's approval.

The division announced last month it wanted to raise the cost of hunting and trapping licenses in Delaware. It held a series of public workshops last week to discuss that idea.

The last time the fees to hunt and trap went up was 2007. The number of Delaware licenses held has dropped steadily since then. It is now at about 17,000.

Funding for wildlife and hunter services has taken a big hit. Fish and Wildlife said that's why it proposed a fee hike.

Delaware's wildlife program has a $430,000 shortfall this fiscal year. That directly led to the state missing out on an additional $1.2 million in federal money.

Drew Smith is a hunter and owns Delmar Upland Hunting Preserve near Dover.

"It's a significant increase, and one I believe is worth it, and I believe the the majority of hunters are willing to pay for that opportunity," he said.

Garrett Grier, vice chair of the advisory council, said even though a very small portion of Delaware's overall hunting population actually showed up to the workshop and council meeting on Tuesday, it seemed like a majority of those who did were opposed to the fee hike.

The NRA weighed in on the fee hike urging its members to voice opposition to it and saying it would hurt hunting in Delaware.

Steve White is a hunter WBOC spoke to at Smyrna Sporting Goods.

"There are a lot of guys whose pay isn't going up. If they increase fees, it's harder for those guys to hunt," White said.

"I don't mind spending or having an increase as long as we know the money goes in the right places," said Brian Brown, who owns Smyrna Sporting Goods.

Fish and Wildlife now has to examine other budget options.

In a statement to WBOC Wednesday the division said it, "will evaluate other possible sources of revenue, additional potential cost savings, and alternate approaches to provide services and manage our wildlife resources within our budget, which may require additional public program service reductions."

Until very recently the state general assembly would have had the decision power on a fee hike proposal like this. In June lawmakers voted to allow to DNREC to follow a different system.

Now DNREC can increase a fee after adequate public comment, approval of the department secretary and approval of the appropriate public advisory council. In this case the Wildlife Advisory Council did not give its approval for a fee increase.

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