Hunting and Fishing Fees May Be Going up in Missouri
Are higher fees coming to Missouri for huntin’ and fishin’ (but fortunately not for lovin’ every day)? Maybe. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has granted initial approval for a fee increase to hunting and fishing permits, so hold on to those pocketbooks, sportsmen (and women):
MDC director Sara Parker Pauley said in the statement that, in the past 20 years, permit prices have remained stagnant despite costs for goods and services drastically increasing.
“In early 2003, the price of a resident firearms deer permit was $17 and the cost of a gallon of unleaded gas was $1.42,” said Pauley. “Jump ahead two decades to May 2023 when the cost of a resident firearms deer permit is still $17 while the cost of a gallon of gas is about $3.30. That cost increase really adds up considering MDC purchased nearly 908,000 gallons of gas in 2022 to run vehicles and equipment.”
Pauley added that, on average, most resident hunting and fishing permit prices would be adjusted by roughly $1. [Emphasis mine]
That seems like a pretty reasonable fee for the service provided by the state, which facilitates (among other things) fish hatcheries and shooting ranges. And the concept of a fee is consistent with my general principle that the folks who enjoy a government service should be the ones to pay for it, like a gas tax for building and maintaining roads.
But it’s also worth keeping in mind that conservation in Missouri also receives funding from a dedicated sales tax. The fact that hunting and fishing permitting costs haven’t risen in two decades is probably less a testament to MDC fiscal management and more a result of the department more or less swimming in money.
The MDC has so much money, in fact, that there was even talk on the floor of the Senate this year of abolishing the fees entirely in light of the department’s budgetary largesse. (As expected of most things in the Senate, nothing came of that conversation, but it did waste about 15 minutes of floor time. So there’s that.)
My stance on hunting regulations was probably best captured in my 2016 letter to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Keep government out of the way of deer hunters,” wherein I extolled the importance of sportsmen (and women) in controlling wild animal populations and ensuring barriers to their entry into that market, like fees, were as low as possible. Fortunately, Missouri’s permit costs are not extravagant and promise not to become extravagant in the future if recent reports are to be believed. But it’s probably a good idea for legislators to reexamine how the MDC is funded in general—with either a fee or a sales tax, but maybe not both.