New fees coming to wildlife areas, increased hunter fees

Date Published: 
May 26, 2017

Approved last summer by state legislators, new entrance fees are coming soon to all state wildlife areas, including the Assawoman Wildlife Area near Bethany Beach. Hunters and trappers will also see license fees jump by at least 50 percent, and some by 200 percent.

The changes begin on Saturday, July 1.

A pass will be required for all registered motor vehicles to access state wildlife areas.

In Sussex County, that includes the wildlife areas of Assawoman (including Piney Point, Okie Preserve, Muddy Neck Tract and Miller Neck Tract), Midlands, Nanticoke, Old Furnace, Marshy Hope and Prime Hook, and the industrial forest lands.

The pass is different from the Delaware State Park fees that are also charged to daily visitors and the annual passes they can also purchase for those areas.

“Hunters and trappers have paid for the majority of wildlife conservation areas and the management of public wildlife areas,” stated David Saveikis, director of the Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife, in 2016. “To give other conservationists the opportunity to contribute to public wildlife area management, we are proposing a conservation access pass. This vehicle pass would be required for access to state wildlife areas for non-hunting purposes.”

The new conservation access pass must be purchased by non-hunters for motor vehicles accessing those public lands but is free with the purchase of most hunting passes.

The pass can be purchased starting July 1 online, at authorized license agents across the state or at the division’s licensing desk in the Richardson & Robbins Building in Dover.

Between a decline in hunting and trapping licenses and general revenue, DNREC hasn’t had enough revenue to be able to take full advantage of federal matching funding. The new revenues will help Division of Fish & Wildlife obtain federal grant money at a ratio of $3 of federal funds per $1 of State funds.

“The majority of our wildlife funding comes from hunting license sales, combined with federal grant funds generated by a surcharge on your purchase of firearms, ammunition and hunting equipment,” Saveikis stated in 2016.

The last license fee increase was in 2007. Revenue hasn’t changed much, but costs definitely have.

The new income will be used to for statewide wildlife conservation, public access facilities and for the management and maintenance of public wildlife areas owned or managed by the Division of Fish & Wildlife.

The new fees and conservation access pass will be effective on Saturday, July 1.

The new vehicles fees will be:

• $32.50 for a Delaware resident annual conservation access pass;

• $65 for a non-resident conservation access pass;

• $10 for a resident three-day conservation access pass; and

• $20 for a non-resident three-day conservation pass.

Private licensing agents may charge a $1.50 processing fee. Passes may be transferred to another vehicle of the same ownership for a $10 fee paid to the department.

Multi-day passes are for three consecutive days.

A conservation access pass isn’t required at certain spots, including educational or shooting-range facilities, designated fishing or boating access areas, part of the C&D Canal Conservation Area and lands leased from the Division.

The hunting fees will increase as follows:

• Resident hunting license from $25 to $39.50

• Resident trapping license from $3.50 to $10

• Resident buck tag and antlerless tag from $10 to $20

• Resident hunting guide license from $100 to $159.50

• Resident fur dealer from $28.75 to $50

• Non-resident hunting license from $130 to $199.50

• Non-resident guide hunting license from $300 to $475

• Non-resident trapping license from $25 to $75

• Non-resident three-day hunting license from $50 to $75

• Non-resident buck tag and antlered tag from $25 to $50

• Resident and non-resident waterfowl stamp from $9 to $15

• Non-resident fur dealers from $287.50 to $475

• breeders permit from $11.50 to $17.50

• propagating permit from $25 to $39.50.

Fishing licenses were not impacted.

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources did not return calls for comment this week.

DNREC previously estimated that the fee increases would result in $551,000 of additional revenue each year. There are approximately 17,369 hunters and 307 trappers licensed with the State of Delaware.

Details are online at www.dnrec.delaware.gov/fw/Pages/Wildlife-Program-Services-and-Funding.as.... Further maps and information are online at www.dnrec.delaware.gov/fw/Pages/Guides.aspx.

House Bill 401 was signed into law in July of 2016, during the previous legislative session. It was sponsored by state Rep. Michael Mulrooney and state Sen. Bruce Ennis, with cosponsors Rep. Ron Gray, Rep. Gerald Brady, Sen. David Sokola and Sen. Bryan Townsend.

It passed with dissent from Sen. Gerald Hocker Sr., Sen. Bryant Richardson, Sen. Colin Bonini, Rep. Rich Collins and Rep. David Wilson. (Rep. Harold Peterman was absent.)