It’s confusing stuff, this legislative process.
Take the Omnibus Game and Fish bill. Besides being a mammoth bill involving a ton of outdoors initiatives, the bill was in non-stop motion, its initiatives fluctuating greatly from day to day. It was a tough one to keep up on.
Most knew of it as the bill headlined by hunting and fishing license fee increases and the proposed wolf hunt. But after that, unless an item was of great personal interest to you — like, say, proposed regulations involving body-gripping traps for many dog owners out there — it was just complicated rhetoric.
After much ado, including a rally at the state Capitol with Al Lindner and a bunch of other locals, Gov. Mark Dayton signed the bill into law a week ago and the DNR recently released a synopsis of the bill. Components of the bill that could impact outdoors types in the Brainerd lakes area and across the state:
• The price of Minnesota hunting and fishing licenses will increase in March 2013 for the first time in 12 years, Among other things, the House- and Senate-approved bill raises the cost of an annual resident fishing license from $17 to $22 and a resident deer hunting license from $26 to $30. Most resident youth hunting and fishing licenses will be $5 or free. Youth under 16 do not need a fishing or small-game hunting license. Enacting the license fee bill maintains the solvency of the state’s Game and Fish Fund for the remainder of this biennium, which ends June 30, 2013. New revenue will begin to come into the game and fish fund in March 2013. The DNR estimates the fees will generate about $5 million in fiscal 2013 and approximately $10 million per year in following years.
• Exempts from licensing requirements any non-motorized watercraft 10 feet in length or less (increased from 9 feet); removes length as a factor in license fees for canoes, kayaks, sailboards, paddle boards or rowing shells (all are $10.50); and retains two-tier license structure for sailboats over 19 feet and for sailboats 19 feet or shorter.
• Expands the definition of bonus permit to include free antlerless deer licenses issued to landowners or tenants of at least 80 acres of agricultural land. These licenses may be issued in permit areas that allow the taking of antlerless deer without a lottery application.
• Eliminates the use of nonresident hunting license surcharges and deer license donations for the venison donation program. Instead, the surcharge on deer bonus licenses are appropriated for deer management, including the cost for processing deer for the venison donation program.
• The $5 surcharge on nonresident hunting licenses, donations from deer license purchasers ($1, $3 or $5) and donations from small game license purchasers ($1, $3, or $5) will be used for the administration of a walk-in access program.
• Authorizes the DNR commissioner to issue a wolf license; to charge a fee for the license and application; establishes a wolf management and monitoring account in the Game and Fish Fund to receive license revenues for wolf management, research, damage control, enforcement and education; to limit the number of wolves taken; to limit the number of hunters and trappers; and other aspects of a wolf season.
• Establishes a walk-in access program to provide public access to wildlife habitat on private land for hunting effective March 1, 2013.
• Revoke a hunter’s privilege of purchasing a deer license for one year if they are convicted of baiting deer and doubles the revocation period for a person convicted of illegally taking a trophy deer scoring over 170 inches.
• Restricts the use of body-gripping traps greater than 6-1/2 inches and less than 7-1/2 inches (also known as Conibear 220 traps) on public lands and waters unless the trap is recessed seven inches or more from the top and front of an enclosure, no attractants are within 20 feet of the trap or the trap is elevated at least three feet from the surface of the ground or snowpack.
• Changes through rule the restitution value for wolves to $500 now that the species is no longer listed on the federal Endangered Species Act.
Dayton also signed a bill designed to curb the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS).
A program requiring watercraft owners to place an AIS rules sticker on their boats is being discontinued and replaced with an online education program. Watercraft owners will no longer be required to place on their boats the rectangular, silver and black decals, which include a summary of the state’s AIS laws. The DNR began distributing the decals earlier this year and will continue to give them to interested boat owners for informational purposes only.
A new law, which goes into effect in 2015, will require anyone who transports watercraft or water-related equipment with a trailer to complete an online education course. After completing the course, the person will receive a decal that must be placed on their trailer, certifying they have taken the course.
Other new AIS laws will be instituted July 1 as a result of the new legislation:
• Civil penalties for violating the state’s AIS laws will double. Fines that currently range from $50 to $250 will increase to $100 to $500, depending on the type of violation. For example, failure to remove a drain plug while transporting a watercraft will mean a $100 fine, instead of a $50 penalty. The fine for unlawfully possessing and transporting prohibited aquatic invasive species will increase from $250 to $500.
• Boat lifts, docks, swim rafts and other water-related equipment (except boats and other watercraft) that are removed from any water body may not be placed in another water body for at least 21 days. The drying-out period is designed to kill any AIS that might be attached to equipment that are high-risk and difficult to clean. Two zebra mussel introductions occurred last year as a result of water equipment being sold and moved from one water body to another.
• Boat clubs, yacht clubs, marinas and other similar organizations are now considered lake-service providers, requiring permits for the clubs and staff working there to take AIS certification training.
• Portable bait containers used while fishing through the ice do not need to be drained before leaving a water body, unless the water body has been declared to have viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS), a virus that is deadly to fish.
• The DNR was given additional authority to require mandatory inspections of water-related equipment before a person places or removes equipment into or out of a water body and to set up inspection stations at a centralized location to cover multiple lakes. The new legislation also allows the DNR to delegate this authority to local governments that have an approved inspection plan.