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MassWildlife Funding

For the first time since 1996, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) is proposing changes in hunting and freshwater fishing license fees to ensure the continued conservation of wildlife, fish, and plants in Massachusetts.

NEW: MassWildlife has scheduled 3 additional information sessions in March about the proposed license increase. The public can ask questions, make comments, and learn more about MassWildlife’s programs, how MassWildlife is funded, and why a license increase is needed by attending a virtual information session: 

You can also provide input using this convenient feedback form or by mail to: MassWildlife Re: License Fee, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581.

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How is MassWildlife funded?

MassWildlife is primarily funded through the sale of hunting, freshwater fishing, and trapping licenses, permits, and stamps, in addition to dedicated federal funds from the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program. These dedicated federal funds account for approximately half of MassWildlife’s budget and are critical to sustaining our wildlife conservation programs in the Commonwealth. A small remainder of the budget comes from bond initiatives, donations, and general funds. Unlike other state agencies, MassWildlife receives only a small percentage of its operational budget from state general funds, such as those derived from state income or sales taxes. All funds from freshwater fishing, hunting, and trapping licenses go directly into the Inland Fish and Game Fund, which can only be used for administering programs for MassWildlife.

Why is MassWildlife considering a license increase?

MassWildlife has not raised license fees since 1996. Over the past 25 years, MassWildlife has been able to maintain its high level of services and programs through responsible fiscal management without needing to raise license fees. But with inflation up nearly 67% since 1996; increased agency responsibilities; and steadily increasing state-mandated costs such as payroll taxes and health insurance, revenue has not been meeting expenses for several years. Additionally, sporting and hunting license sales have declined 20% and 50%, respectively, over the last 25 years, and the number of free licenses issued to those 70 years and older now totals approximately 27,000 per year. Periodic license increases are an unfortunate necessity to keep pace with inflation and general costs of living. Unless we act now, the Inland Fish and Game Fund is projected to be out of funds in three years (FY2025). MassWildlife is proposing an increase in license fees to fund core operations and maintain the high-quality programs and services constituents have come to expect from the agency over the past 25 years.

How do license fees provide programs and services for hunters and anglers?

License buyers are MassWildlife’s partners in keeping wildlife populations healthy and abundant, protecting their habitat, and maintaining access for outdoor recreation. Fees from fishing, hunting, and trapping licenses, permits, and fees provide a variety of services for sportsmen and -women, including the scientific management of fish and wildlife; trout and pheasant stocking; habitat management; and educational programs such as Angler Education, Hunter Education, Becoming an Outdoors Woman, Junior Conservation Camp, Teaching with Trout, Junior Duck Stamp, and National Archery in the Schools. MassWildlife also manages and protects over 226,000 acres of conserved lands and waters open to the public for hunting, fishing, trapping, and wildlife viewing.

How does MassWildlife’s work benefit Massachusetts?

All Massachusetts residents and visitors benefit from MassWildlife’s work to conserve wildlife, protect open space, and preserve clean water and air. MassWildlife manages over 226,000 acres of conserved lands and waters open to the public for fishing, hunting, trapping, wildlife viewing, and other outdoor recreation. Wildlife-related recreation in Massachusetts generates about $2 billion in retail sales annually and supports about 35,000 jobs. Through science-based management and strong educational programs, MassWildlife ensures healthy fish and wildlife populations, abundant natural resources, and scenic landscapes that contribute to a strong outdoor economy and improve the quality of life for all citizens.

What fee changes is MassWildlife proposing, and when would the changes go into effect?

Please click here to view a table showing the current and proposed fees charges for hunting, fishing, and trapping licenses, permits, and stamps. The proposed new fees would not go into effect until 2022 and would be the first increase in 26 years.

How did MassWildlife determine the proposed fees?

MassWildlife and the Fisheries and Wildlife Board completed a comprehensive review of the agency’s finances including an analysis of all programs, operating costs, current license fees and trends, as well as how MassWildlife’s fees compare to the other New England states. The proposed fees address MassWildlife’s current revenue shortfall; are projected to sustain the Inland Fish and Game Fund for another decade; are necessary to fund core operations and maintain MassWildlife's high-quality programs and services; and are comparable to the other New England states. Click here to see how MassWildlife’s current and proposed license fees compare to those charged by the other New England states.

How is MassWildlife considering the public's input in this process?

In advance of a formal proposal to raise fees, MassWildlife held three information sessions in early February to provide the public an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about MassWildlife’s license fee proposal. In addition to comments given at the information sessions, feedback was also collected by phone calls, emails, letters, and on MassWildlife’s website. The majority of comments received were supportive of MassWildlife’s programs and expressed understanding of the need for a license fee increase.

With consideration of public input, a proposed license fee structure was presented to the Fisheries and Wildlife Board at its public meeting on February 17, 2021.

NEW: MassWildlife has scheduled 3 additional information sessions in March. The public can ask questions, make comments, and learn more about MassWildlife’s programs, how MassWildlife is funded, and why a license increase is needed by attending a virtual information session: 

MassWildlife anticipates scheduling and holding formal public hearings later in the spring which will be advertised well in advance. In the meantime, you can provide feedback about the license fee proposal using this convenient feedback form or by mail to: MassWildlife Re: License Fee, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581.

How will MassWildlife fund conservation in the future?

MassWildlife’s efforts to conserve fish and wildlife for the benefit of all citizens relies heavily on the revenue generated from fishing and hunting licenses, yet less than 5% of Massachusetts residents fish, hunt, or trap. The challenge of funding wildlife conservation in the 21st century is not unique to Massachusetts. Most states, like Massachusetts, are heavily dependent on license sales and federal aid from the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program to fund their state’s conservation programs. Nationally, participation in hunting and fishing is declining, along with license revenue, and state agencies are finding they cannot sustain themselves by relying solely on license fees. In response, many states are seeking alternate sources of funding. Lead by environmental partners, other states such as Missouri, Virginia, Texas, Georgia, and Arkansas have successfully implemented alternative funding models. 

The Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board is committed to working with the Baker Administration, sporting constituents, outdoor recreation partners, and environmental stakeholders to explore a long-term, more diversified and sustainable funding model that is supported by the public at large. In the short term, the proposed license fee increases are critical to maintain current operations, programs, and services that MassWildlife’s constituents have come to expect. The proposed increase is projected to sustain the solvency of the Inland Fish and Game Fund for 8–10 years.

Contact

You can provide input using this convenient feedback form or by mail to: MassWildlife Re: License Fee, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough, MA 01581.

Media inquiry? Please contact Marion Larson at marion.larson@mass.gov.

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