Being nibbled to death by ducks

When dealing with government, it’s almost certain somewhere along the line the public will be confused — and that confusion will benefit government and hit citizens in the pocketbook. If you don’t think so, read the language in any piece of legislation proposed or made law by the N.C. House or Senate. The government-speak and bureaucratic jargon is usually so thick it’d take a gaggle of Philadelphia lawyers to wade through most of it, which isn’t that strange since many legislators are lawyers.

We received an e-mail a few weeks ago warning that the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission was about to jack the price of adult lifetime Sportsman’s licenses from $500 to $675. We fired off an e-mail to Richard Hamilton, executive director of the WRC, and asked him if the rumor were true.

Hamilton replied: “(The) WRC cannot increase license fees without action by the General Assembly. There is no increase planned or even seriously considered.”

Case closed, we thought.

We later received an e-mail with an “attachment” that obviously was a copy of a message from the WRC to Wildlife Cooperator Agents, showing the new fee system. Sure enough, when Jan. 1, 2007, arrives, Lifetime Sportsman license fees jump to $675.

We sent Hamilton another e-mail, with the attached fee schedule that showed the $175 boost for a Lifetime Resident Sportsman combo (hunting and freshwater/saltwater privileges) license.

He replied quickly, as he always does with good information, that it was the General Assembly who set the $675 fee when it passed the Coastal Recreational Fishing License bill (S1126) during the summer. Hamilton noted the “old” Lifetime Sportsman’s License fee remains unchanged — if you purchase one after Jan. 1, 2006, you still can pay $500, but it won’t cover saltwater fishing. But if you pay $675, you legally can fish in saltwater.

The deadline for being “grandfathered” into free coastal saltwater fishing (no additional license required) by owning a Lifetime Sportsman’s License was Jan. 1, 2006. If you didn’t have a lifetime license before that date, you still can pay $500; you just can’t legally fish in saltwater unless you additionally buy another (10-day, yearly, etc.) saltwater license. But if you pay $675 for the lifetime sportsman’s license, you’re (a) out an additional $175, but (b) can recreationally hunt or fish anywhere in the state without having to buy any other licenses, except federal licenses, such as the duck stamp — for the rest of your natural life, which is still a good deal.

So Hamilton was correct: The WRC’s lifetime sportsman’s fee didn’t change, but then it did change. Confusing enough for ya?

With the brouhaha created by the initial saltwater license bill that didn’t exempt lifetime sportsman’s license-holders from needing a saltwater license, we’d have thought it might have been a good idea to exempt everyone — past, present, future — who buys a regular $500 Lifetime Resident Sportsman’s license from extra saltwater fees. Cheaper cost = more buyers, right?

But then again, that’s not the way the legislature works. Our public servants saw a chance to get into your pocketbooks once again — and they did.

And you expected … what?

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About Craig Holt 1372 Articles
Craig Holt of Snow Camp has been an outdoor writer for almost 40 years, working for several newspapers, then serving as managing editor for North Carolina Sportsman and South Carolina Sportsman before becoming a full-time free-lancer in 2009.

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