DNR policy board asks Legislature for permission to raise fees in support of parks and other programs

The policy-setting board for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is seeking permission to raise the price for state park permits and hunting licenses. 

The Natural Resources Board unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday asking the Legislature to give it permission to raise fees for licenses, permits and park admission. 

Board President Frederick Prehn said the costs of licenses and permits haven’t increased with inflation over the years. For example, he said, the price of a duck stamp is still the same as it was in 1997 — $7. 

The resolution would also allow the board to do periodic reviews and raise fees again in the future, if necessary. 

“The reason the board is discussing this resolution is because we’ve had a lot of input from citizens who really use our resources and demand that proper dollars are spent in the proper areas where there are wildlife concerns,” he said. “The public is shocked that we haven’t kept up with the cost of inflation and the amount of usage.”

The resolution did not include any details on the new costs of the fees or how much the department was hoping to bring in with the increases. 

Prehn also noted that many people are using state parks without paying admission fees because they’re entering the parks on foot or by bike. Currently, only cars are required to pay — $28 for an annual sticker or $8 for a day pass. Those using state trails for hiking aren’t required to pay for a pass, either. Board members didn’t say they would impose fees on walk-ins, but brought it up as an issue facing parks and said they hoped to address the issue in the future. 

The increases in prices would help with things like maintenance, Prehn said. 

Right now, fees for licenses and permits are set by statute and are sometimes considered by the Legislature during the budget process, Prehn said. The resolution asks for the Legislature to create a new statute, giving the board the authority to review prices and raise them if needed. 

Board member Terry Hilgenberg, who helped draft the resolution, said the process of getting authority is likely going to take a long time, but he hopes to see the board involved in the process of drafting the statute.  

“I’m hoping we’re going to have a lot of kicks at the cat,” he said. “Because if we don’t, that means it’s not going anywhere.” 

Laura Schulte can be reached at leschulte@jrn.com and on Twitter at @SchulteLaura