South Carolina’s House Legislative Oversight Committee is asking the SCDNR for input on raising rates for hunters and anglers, and for coming up with new fees, according to the Post and Courier. And lawmakers are putting together their own ideas for raising these fees.

But are they looking in the right places?

Hunting and fishing license fees are easy targets for lawmakers. They can look at the current numbers of license-holders and make estimates on how much more revenue can be raised through increases, and can adjust those increases based on the amount they’d like to raise.

But what about the other folks who take advantage of many of the same services and locations that the SCDNR maintains, in part with funding that comes from license fees that hunters, anglers, and boaters have been paying for decades?

Take South Carolina’s Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), for instance. The SCDNR maintains these public lands for the enjoyment of all citizens, and various activities are available to folks depending on which WMA they are visiting.

But hunters and anglers aren’t the only ones using those lands, which have plenty of activities available for non-hunters and non-anglers.

Crackerneck WMA is one example. The activities offered on this 10,600-acre tract of land maintained by the SCDNR include bicycling, paddling, horseback riding, hiking, birding, and photography. No one participating in any of those activities pays a dime to the SCDNR for those hobbies. 

And while all WMAs don’t offer each one of those activities, the principal remains the same. And many of the WMAs have special areas and well-built platforms specifically for nature viewing and photography, as well as improved hiking and biking trails, launches for canoes and kayaks, and equestrian amenities. 

Even outside of WMAs, paddlers use boat launches on the state’s public lakes and rivers that power boaters also use, but only power boaters are required to have their watercraft registered, and those registration fees are used in part to maintain those boat launches and parking lots. Paddlers are essentially getting a free ride here, just like they and many others are getting at the state’s WMAs.

And those free rides are coming at the expense of power boaters, anglers, and hunters.

The SCDNR has a huge responsibility to the state, and they do their job well, despite slashed budgets imposed on them by the same body of lawmakers now asking them for input on how to increase revenue.

And keep in mind, all of the money that hunters, anglers, and power boaters pay does not go into the SCDNR’s budget. It all goes to the state’s general fund, and the lawmakers dole out a certain portion to the department. So there is no assurance that all or even most of any increases will go to the SCDNR, but that is an article for another day.

Hunters, anglers, and boaters are paying just like we always have for the privilege of enjoying the state’s natural resources. The paddlers, horseback riders, bicyclists, birders, and nature photographers that use those same natural resources are not.

We can all probably agree that the SCDNR should get more funding to maintain and protect the state’s resources. But should we traditional outdoorsmen pay even more, or should those other groups finally pitch in?

Click here to see the list of lawmakers on the House Legislative Oversight Committee and let them know how you feel about this subject.