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DNR proposes raising fees on fishing licenses, boat registrations and park passes

The DNR commissioner says it's also requesting another $265 million from the legislature to fix aging infrastructure.

RAMSEY, Minn. — The "Bold North" is known for the great outdoors, but some of the activities you love like boating, fishing and visiting state parks could soon cost more. 

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is hoping for a piece of the state legislature's $17 billion surplus. According to DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen, it's requesting $265 million — a one-time payment she says would re-build run down infrastructure like boat ramps and fish hatcheries from the 1950s. 

"Instead of budgeting to plug holes or budgeting based on a particular funding source, we’re really trying to budget based on how Minnesotans interact with and experience our natural resources and outdoors," says Strommen.

Strommen says the DNR needs even more money to maintain that new infrastructure, and it's proposing raising the fees you pay for boat registrations, state park passes and fishing licenses.

But when the state is flush with so much cash, it has some people raising their eyebrows — like famed outdoorsman Ron Schara. 

"Historically, anglers and hunters for that matter, have always been willing to pay their own way," said Schara. 

He says that it's now time the government makes investments, particularly in fishing, for the first time in a decade. 

"Minnesota has not invested a nickel of general revenue fund, that's your income tax money, not a nickel, in fish management in this state and yet fishing is a multi-billion dollar economy," said Schara.

Governor Walz is including about $110 million in his budget, but Schara said it could cost $92 million just to fix all the DNR's fish hatcheries.  

"They’re being held together with scotch tape basically, so you start there," said Schara about the proposed monies.

The DNR plan increases boat registration depending on the boat's size. But the largest increase is about $32. Daily park passes would go up from $7 to $10 and annual fishing licenses for state residents would increase from $25 to $30 that would kick in next March. 

"And for that, Minnesota anglers will see more than a $100 million dollars in investments from other state dollars in our hatcheries that grow the fish, the spaces people catch fish, whether that’s the boat access or the shore fishing area or pier," says Strommen. "It's making sure we're addressing that whole experience."

"And what's better than to hang on the water on a beautiful summer day and try fishing," said Schara, who's not ready to take a stance on the DNR's proposal until he sees exactly how the money will be spent. 

That will be better defined in a bill that will be written closer to the end of the legislative session this spring. 

The DNR also says it's important to note that these proposals are for permits and licenses, and registration fees that have not been raise in many years, in one case more than a decade.

  • Watercraft registration fees have not increased since 2006.
  • The legislature last increased select license prices in 2017.
  • The legislature last increased state park vehicle permits in 2018, which was the first fee increase in more than a decade.

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