One of the best things about living in Oregon, especially the northeastern part of the state, is the abundance of places to hunt and fish. Bringing home a stringer of trout or feasting on venison is part of Oregon's heritage.

But catching kokanee in Wallowa Lake, pursuing steelhead in the Grande Ronde River, hunting elk in the Eagle Cap Wilderness or any of the other popular fishing and hunting opportunities locally and throughout Oregon will cost a lot more if Gov. Ted Kulongoski gets his way.

Faced with declining state revenues, the governor's next proposed budget calls for tax and fee increases, including a whopping 20 percent hike in hunting and fishing licenses.

Kulongoski's new $15.8 billion budget presented to the Oregon Legislature includes $263.6 million for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, a 3.6 percent increase over the amount currently budgeted.

The governor is counting on legislative approval of fishing and hunting licenses and tags, including raising the cost of a resident hunting license from $22.50 to $27, jumping the cost of a fishing license from $24.75 to $30, salmon and steelhead tags from $21.50 to $26, elk tags from $34.50 to $42 and deer tags from $19.50 to $24. People who like to fish and hunt several times a year would pay on average about $30 more for all the tags and licenses needed. A frequent hunter and fishermen who spends time trout and steelhead fishing and hunting deer and elk would be charged $160 for the most popular tags and licenses, sold in a package with everything.

The increase in license fees is being proposed to make up for a shortfall in lottery funds and a reduction in general fund money for ODFW.

The state's priorities in managing fish and wildlife should be to adequately stock trout streams and lakes, staff biologists throughout the state, fund wildlife troopers for the Oregon State Police and manage fisheries and wildlife areas.

The state is seeing a decrease in hunting and fishing participation, in part to continued license cost increases and more restrictive seasons in some areas, such as the lopsided allocation of spring Chinook in the Columbia River to commercial gillnetters compared to sport anglers. We feel the excessive jump in hunting and fishing license fees will cause more hunters and anglers to either give up the sport, or fish and hunt without a license. It also could reduce revenue. Instead of paying $160 for a combination of all the licenses and tags, or even the $130 currently charged, sportsmen may be more selective, purchasing just $60 or $70 for the tags they're more likely to use.

The Oregon Legislature should reject Kulongoski's rapid increase in hunting and sport fishing license fees.

- A.M.

Editorials reflect the view of the Wallowa County Chieftain. Send comments to amartin@wallowa.com.

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