Game Commission ponders increase in license fees

According to a report delivered Tuesday to the Pennsylvania House Game and Fisheries Committee, the Game Commission will seek to increase the fee for hunting licenses in the state.

Game Commission Executive Director Matt Hough referred to the need to increase costs in the commission’s annual legislative report, spokesman Travis Lau said. The committee was receptive to discussing a possible increase.

The last increase in the cost of a hunting license was in 1999, Hough said in his testimony, when the fee jumped from $12 to $19.

“In the past few years we have not made pursuing a license increase a priority for the agency,” Hough said, and the development of the shale gas industry and leasing Marcellus Shale rights on game lands allowed the commission to address immediate concerns.

“But we always knew that the Marcellus Shale would not be a permanent fix to the agency’s long-term funding needs,” he said.

Part of the funding issue comes from projected personnel costs, he said. In 1999, the commission had 731 full-time employees with an annual expense of $40.4 million. Today, maintaining 714 employees is projected to run about $82.1 million.

While it is still early in the process, Lau said, a $10 increase has been mentioned during discussions.

“But we’re looking a while down the road,” he said. “This won’t affect the coming license year.”

A fee increase would have to be voted on by the General Assembly, he said, with a bill likely coming out of the game and fisheries committee.