Removal of exemption aimed at maintaining funding base for fisheries management

PRATT -- Traditional outdoor recreation pursuits have experienced declining participation rates throughout the U.S. in recent years. Pastimes such as fishing reflect the changing face of American society, as a variety of new leisure-time activities compete for the public’s time and attention. The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks is concerned about fishery funding issues related to this decline and is seeking input through its Blog (go to and click on the “KDWP Blog” link).
About 406,000 persons fished in Kansas in 2006, according to a recently-completed national survey conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. While Kansas is among the leaders in the U.S. for the fishing participation rate of its citizens, the prospect of aging “baby boomers” presents challenges for the future of fishing here.

“The ‘baby boom’ generation has always been heavily involved in fishing,” said Doug Nygren, KDWP’s fisheries section chief. “Their support of the department’s fisheries management efforts, through their purchase of fishing licenses and fishing equipment, has made possible a variety of unprecedented high-quality fishing opportunities in our state.”

Last year, the department’s fisheries efforts expended about $7 million to fund fisheries management in the state. That revenue pays for professional biologists’ activities, fish hatchery operations, fuel, equipment, and other efforts aimed at enhancing fishing opportunities across the state. Declining participation rates, along with the prospect of baby boomers approaching the fishing license-exempt age of 65, present serious challenges to future fisheries management in Kansas. The department is investigating a variety of strategies to secure funding for future fisheries management in Kansas, including a proposal to modify some license exemptions.

Currently, fishing licenses are required of Kansans age 16 through 64 to fish public waters in the state; licenses are not required for residents 65 and older. Of the 406,000 people who fished in Kansas last year, only 253,000 were licensed. The department’s fisheries management efforts are funded almost entirely from license and permit purchases of anglers, as well as an excise tax paid on fishing equipment, which is distributed among the states through federal aid programs. That federal aid distribution is based partly on the number of fishing licenses sold, and exempt anglers are not included in the formula that determines the department’s annual federal aid apportionment.
The department is considering a modification of that senior exemption, so that the revenues for fisheries programs and management in Kansas can be shared among as many anglers as possible. Potential options include removing the senior exemption, and offering either a reduced-price annual fishing license or a reduced-price “lifetime” fishing license for citizens 65 and older.

To help determine public sentiment about this proposal, KDWP invites interested persons to post comments at the KDWP Blog.