First Public Workshop On Hunting and License Fees

Wildlife program services and funding handout
Wildlife program services and funding handout

Tonight at 7 PM was the first meeting for the proposals involving hunting and license fees and the conservation access permit.  There were over 110 people in attendance including the DNREC staff.  First and foremost I would like to thank David Saveikis and his staff for taking the time to host these workshops.  Those folks have a tough job and I do not envy them.  The meeting was very smooth, but rather long.  Director Saveikis’s presentation was short and to the point.  In a nut shell DNREC is $600,000 under budget and needs to fix that.  Hence the raising of fees proposal and the conservation access pass proposal.  DNREC is dealing with a conundrum, “How do we maintain and open more existing lands without the resources to do so?”   Meanwhile hunters, and rightfully so, want to know why they have to pay more when lands need better maintenance and they want more access to lands that are closed.  It is one of those situations where if there isn’t the resources available then you can’t use something you may be paying for and I can understand the hunter’s concerns.  I would compare it to … Welcome to the park, thank you for the entrance fee, but facilities are closed because we can’t afford to stay open today.  I recorded the entire meeting but the audio is scratchy due to feed back from the PA system, so I can not share the presentation given by Director Saveikis.  He did a great job as always.

hunting license fees in delaware
Chart showing license fees collected over the past decade

To be fair to DNREC the budget short fall is not their fault it is due to a decrease in purchased hunting licenses over the past 3 years and inflation.  Their money has just run out and they need a way to fix that .   It was pointed out by Representative Rich Collins that Delaware has a budget of, I think he said four billion this year, but he may have said three.  Everyone had the same question after that was mentioned.  Why is the state not ponying up the dough to help DNREC maintain these lands?  He even said it is only $600,000, DNREC should ask the state for the help.    I would urge you to write your representatives and ask them the same question.  The public comment period was interesting to say the least.  It was very civil.  There were many good observations and ideas presented to DNREC.  I would say that over all there is huge support for raising the fees, so long as maintained resources will be made available to the people who pay to access the lands.   One thing that has been pointed out a few times is that with a conservation access pass these people will want to have guaranteed access to areas, and DNREC assured everyone that within the 60,000 acres of land that the state owns they would be able to set up areas so everyone can use these areas.

DNREC, delaware, sussex county, hunting workshop
Wildlife program services and funding handout

Sunday hunting was on a lot of minds and that was not part of tonight’s meeting, but some very good points were brought up about that issue regardless.  When it was announced that Sunday hunting was not part of this workshop several people left.  However the folks that did comment made a very good argument for allowing Sunday hunting.  I agree and think hunting on Sunday should be allowed on private land.  It is my land I should be able to do what I want on it when I want.   Sunday hunting would increase hunting monies due to the fact people from neighboring states would probably come here and pay to hunt on a Sunday.  The problem, as Director Savsikis pointed out, is that is a legislative issue and needs to be made into a law.  There again you will need to write your representatives.  There are over 17,000 licensed hunters in Delaware this year, you all need to start writing your representatives.  I don’t see any reason why people should not be allowed to hunt on their private land on a Sunday.  One hunter pointed out that he was willing to pay the $200 to go to Maryland just to hunt on a Sunday, he felt that people would come here to do the same.  People would be able to lease their private land for Sunday hunts.  That would be revenue for both the state and the land owner.  I could just be an archery only day for those concerned with the noise factor.  We all understand that on Sunday many people like to use the state lands for birding, hiking and horseback riding.  However on someone elses’s private land people can’t just do those activities.  If they would like to do so, I have plenty to rent you access to, with my own small conservation access fee.  I have plenty of wildlife to photograph, I’ll even rent a bigfoot costume and do a run through for grins and giggles.  Seriously I see no reason people should not be able to do what they wish on their own lands.  Especially farmers dealing with crop damages.

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If you go to the meeting tomorrow night in Kent County or the one on Thursday in New Castle county, do yourself and everyone there a favor. It was asked to keep the public comments to 3 minutes.  I urge you to follow that request.  It was a long night and everyone had something they wanted to say.  Remember there were over a hundred people there tonight, which was three times the total attendance last year for all three locations combined.  I want to again thank DNREC for their patience and having this workshop.  I especially want to thank all of the hunters that showed up and had a very civil level-headed meeting, those are the best kind, because people listen more when they are talked with and not at.  You have to realize without their fees (hunters) most of these lands could not be maintained.  One thing I will warn that was mentioned a few times with the conservation pass, people who pay to access land as non hunters will want more access for themselves over time.  The other thing that was pointed out was how in the heck will DNREC enforcement make sure people have these passes, they are stretched thin already.  There is consideration for a three-day pass but there isn’t a booth like at state parks to regulate who goes in and out.  Food for thought on that one.  Have fun at the next two meetings and keep it civil, it is much more enjoyable and productive.

Fish On!!

Rich King

Next Meetings …. 

  • Kent County – 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13 at Kent County Administrative Complex, 555 South Bay Road, Dover, DE 19901
  • New Castle County – 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14 at Ommelanden Hunter Education Training Center, 1205 River Road, New Castle, DE 19720

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