from WATERWORKS, an Outdoors Column by Gordon Prickett, for the April 4th Aitkin Independent Age
MAKING HISTORY THIS SPRING
Every lake around Aitkin County has experienced its earliest Ice-Out in decades. Minnesota’s many lakes were slow to freeze over last fall. Skaters loved the open ice when snow came even later than usual this winter. The season for ice fishing and snowmobiling was awfully short. The same can be said for snow plowing, usually an added source of winter income up here.
When the ice cover on our lake disappeared on the second day of spring it became hard to imagine that this wasn’t something more than "unusual weather." Watchers of Nord Lake have kept score for 36 years, and this is a record!
LICENSE DOLLARS AT WORK
At the Annual Commerce Show in Aitkin last month, Conservation Officer Bob Mlynar handed me a document from the DNR that tells what happens to the hunting and fishing license fees collected each year - how the DNR puts the money to work.
The dollars are deposited in the state’s Game and Fish Fund, which can only be used for fish and wildlife-related work. License revenue pays for fish stocking, population surveys, and habitat projects, as well as a network of conservation officers who protect wild species, snare poachers, and oversee firearms safety training.
This Game and Fish Fund currently receives $90 million annually, and 55% ($49.5 million) is license fees. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service returns proceeds of the excise tax collected on firearms, hunting and fishing equipment to the state under the Federal Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Programs. This puts $22.5 million into the fund (25%). The State Lottery Sales Tax accounts for another 14% ($12.6 million).
The document has a message from DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr, and he thanks us for buying our licenses. He also makes the case for a fee increase that is currently being requested. The last increase was in 2001, and the balance of the Game and Fish Fund has declined to a critical level. Besides tightening belts and increasing efficiencies, game and fish field effort has been reduced. Landwehr says that an adjustment now can assure the quality of modern fish and wildlife management.
You’re welcome, Tom! Thanks for the information.
To get a copy of this document with examples of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Enforcement activities putting these dollars to work, you can stop in at the Aitkin DNR Office in "Southgate," 1200 Minnesota Avenue South, phone 927-3751.