New Hampshire Considers Imposing Boat Registration Fees

Posted: 11/15/2006
by Mark and Sharon Lacroix

Once again New Hampshire Fish & Game is attempting to impose boat (not boater) fees on human powered craft. This same proposal was floated last year but was shelved when a letter writing campaign changed the minds of some legislators. The return of this idea may be an attempt by Fish Game to pass their proposals with a newly elected state legislature. American Whitewater will post sample letters and representative addresses in the near future.

The following article appeared in the Manchester Union Leader on November 15th, 2006.

Facing shortfall, Fish and Game seeks new fees

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

The state Fish and Game Department wants to impose new fees on boaters and take a portion of the state's rooms and meals tax to ward off a $5 million budget shortfall.

The department, created in 1935, originally maintained game animal and fish stocks for hunters and fishermen. But its scope has expanded to encompass conservation of wetlands and open space, search and rescue, public education and the policing of off-highway recreational vehicles. Unlike most state departments, Fish and Game is self-supporting and must pay for its operations through fees paid mostly by hunters and anglers.

We're essentially at a turning point where we can't continue to cut and expect to have a viable agency, Lee Perry, the department's executive director, said Monday.

Fish and Game proposes a $10 annual conservation decal for all non-motorized boats, which would net about $1.5 million a year. Charging salt-water anglers an annual fee and taking a cut of the rooms and meals tax would raise an additional $5.6 million.

Department officials hope lawmakers will introduce the proposals in the coming legislative session. Perry also has asked Gov. John Lynch to set aside $1.6 million annually for two years when the governor presents his budget to lawmakers in February. The money, Perry said, "will allow us to keep people employed.

In the past, the department has boosted revenue by increasing the fees on hunting and fishing licenses. Resident fishing licenses, for example, have increased from $22.50 to $35. But as fees increased, the number of licenses has decreased. The number of hunting licenses has dropped by 25 percent since 1995. Fishing licenses have dropped by 10 percent.

During that time, the cost of health insurance premiums and medical benefits for retired department workers has risen 159 percent. Perry said if the department fails to raise money for the budget that begins in July, 28 full-time workers and 36 part-time workers would be without jobs.

Because Fish and Game is responsible for all wildlife resources in the state, not just catering to hunters and fishermen, everyone should pay a fair share," said Rep. Bob L'Heureux, chairman of the House Fish and Game Committee.

Mark Lacroix
Thornton, NH