That’s why the Legislature appropriated $1.6 million for the Fish and Game Department in the two-year state budget passed in June. The department will receive approximately $700,000 in fiscal 2014 and roughly $900,000 in fiscal 2015.
It was the first time the Legislature set aside money for the self-funded agency.
Hubert said licensing fees generate nearly $30 million in annual revenue. He also said people who hunt and fish in New Hampshire boost the state’s economy by about $560 million each year.
Hubert and Kidder admit it would be difficult to enforce the fee requirement. It’s hoped people would pay the fee voluntarily once they know it funds an important cause.
“Certainly, some people are going to be upset about it, but other people are going to say, ‘Glad to do it,’” Kidder said.
“We hope when they learn the big picture, they will be willing to contribute,” he said. “I do anticipate some pushback. No one wants to pay a fee today for something that was free yesterday.”
Officials from some Southern New Hampshire hunting and fishing clubs say the fee is equivalent to paying a tax in a state that prides itself for not having a sales or income tax.
“I’m just shocked that the state wants to add another tax,” said Don Hathaway, treasurer of the Plaistow Fish and Game Club. “To me, it’s another tax — that’s all it is.”
Hathaway and Pelham Fish and Game Club president Mitch Kopacz said hunters and anglers are already paying for the right to enjoy their sport through annual licensing fees.
They shouldn’t face another fee for using a boat or canoe to go fishing, the sportsmen said.
“The government is trying to find any way it can to collect more money,” Kopacz said. “If I have already paid a fee to the state, I shouldn’t have to pay an additional fee.”
Rep. James Webb, R-Derry, a member of the House Fish and Game and Marine Resources Committee, is also critical of the fee. He’s afraid it would hurt the state’s tourism industry.
“A fee is a tax — it’s another move to a tax,” he said. “You are going to drive people right out of the state. We rely on the tourism industry.”