budget targets out-of-state ice fishermen

New fee added to state budget targets out-of-state ice fishermen – If you live outside Wisconsin and want to fish on its frozen waters from inside an ice shack, you may have to pay a new fee to do it.

It’s a change targeted to get even with Minnesota, which has had ice shanty placement fees for decades, says a western Wisconsin lawmaker.

The state budget weaving its way through the Legislature includes the new fee for out-of-state anglers only – a change estimated to raise about $270,000 in new money for fish and wildlife programs run by the Department of Natural Resources.

But there’s a catch – the DNR didn’t propose the idea and is unsure whether it’s a good one.

It came from a lawmaker looking for new ways to raise money and to duplicate a similar fee that Minnesota charges Wisconsin ice fishermen.

“It is only fair and equitable that we do the same to them,” said Rep. Mark Pettis, R-Hurtel. “Why should we be forced to pay a nonresident fish shanty permit to Minnesota when we go over there and we allow them to come over here for nothing?”

DNR budget director Joe Polasek said the agency is reviewing Pettis’ proposal to see how easy it would be to implement and enforce.

The budget passed this week by the Assembly would require nonresident anglers to buy a seven-day or annual permit to place an ice shack on state waters, costing $20 and $34, respectively. The bill now goes to the Senate. The new ice shanty fee was added by the legislative Joint Finance Committee.

DNR fisheries director Mike Staggs said people have talked for a long time of different ways to fund fish and wildlife programs, but in recent years the political support for new fees and higher taxes hasn’t existed, so the DNR has been reluctant to propose them.

The DNR sells about 130,000 annual and another 166,000 short-term fishing licenses to out-of-state residents, Polasek said. The agency has no way of knowing how many use the licenses to fish from ice shacks in the winter.

The projected revenue from the change is based on Minnesota’s experience with its fee, Polasek said.

Linda Erickson-Eastwood, a DNR fisheries program manager in Minnesota, said her state has required an ice shanty permit for all anglers since 1903 and began charging a fee in 1922. The nonresident fees today are $1 less than Pettis’ proposal for Wisconsin, and residents pay one annual $11.50 fee, she said.

Minnesota last raised the fees about five years ago, Erickson-Eastwood said.

Minnesota DNR spokesman Mark LaBarbera said if Wisconsin tacks on the new fee, more Minnesota anglers might stay home and fish. “I would think that Wisconsin tourism would prefer to leave things the way they are.”

Pettis’ proposal comes as Republican lawmakers who hold majorities in the both the Assembly and Senate have boasted about cutting taxes on gasoline and Social Security benefits.

“This was at the request of my constituency living on the Wisconsin-Minnesota border,” Pettis said. “These folks like to enjoy the Minnesota fishing and they are charged this fee for putting this fish shanty on the lake and they have asked me to do the same to them.”

Pettis said he has no plan to extend such a fee to in-state anglers, unless it was a token amount, such as $1, just to get a count on the number of people who ice fish.

It is not unprecedented for one state to set its outdoor policy based on what another state does, said Pettis, who ice fishes in Minnesota and has paid the shanty fee.

“There are states that won’t allow Wisconsinites to trap in their state because we don’t allow nonresidents to trap here,” he said.
By ROBERT IMRIE Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press – Friday, June 24, 2005
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