The incoming director of the Department of Natural Resources says he wants to reverse a slow, but steady, decline in the sale of hunting and fishing licenses in Michigan and "get people outdoors."
Rodney Stokes, who last week was named to the post by Gov.-elect Rick Snyder, said he wants to expand the focus of the department's recruitment efforts beyond youth to encouraging adult Michigan residents to take their neighbors hunting or fishing.
Although the department has seen deep cuts in its general fund allocations over the past 10 years and has not had a license fee increase since 1996, Stokes said he has no plans to increase revenues by seeking to hike license fees.
"Not right now," he said.
Revenues from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses edged up to $45.3 million this year from $44 million in 2005 as a result of the department removing certain discounts, said Sharon Schafer, the department's assistant division chief for administration and finance. But when inflation is factored in, revenues have lost ground.
Bills introduced in 2007 to hike the cost of hunting and fishing licenses never got out of committee, despite support from user groups such as the Michigan United Conservation Clubs.
The bills would have gradually increased the cost of a firearm deer license from $15 to $30 by 2010, while increasing the cost of an all-species fishing license from $28 to $37 during the same period.
Dave Nyberg, the conservation clubs' legislative affairs manager, said the group supported the fee hikes because "we have a problem with long-term sustainable funding for management of our natural resources."
But the group is supportive of Stokes' view that now is not the time for a license fee increase, Nyberg said.
"Quite frankly, the department has a lot of work to do on their customer service," another priority area cited by Stokes, Nyberg said. The department needs to show users they are receiving value for money, he said.
Stokes, now the chief of the science and policy office, has had two stints with the DNR, the first one beginning in 1977.
From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20101205/METRO/12050310/Michigan’s-new-DNR-chief-wants-more-people-hunting--fishing#ixzz17MXCTDFq