AUGUSTA, Maine -- After weeks of debate, Governor John Baldacci yesterday signed into law a budget that significantly enhances the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
The Governor's $5.7 billion budget includes $3.8 million of general fund money for the department. This money will roll back license fees, enhance department non-game and endangered species programs, and boost hatchery production of trout and salmon. The budget also creates a Sportsman's license plate, a super pack license, and creates an open season for turkeys in 2006. Gone from the budget are proposals for Sunday hunting and a canoe and kayak registration fee.
"I am extremely pleased with the Governor's support and leadership, and pleased with the support given this Department by the Legislature," said Roland D. Martin, Commissioner, Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. "The canoe and kayak initiative was removed from the budget, but funding to offset this initiative remains in the budget."
Under this budget, the temporary $3.00 license increase passed two years ago is replaced with a $2.00 increase, rolling back most resident and nonresident license prices by $1.00. The budget also allows for an additional $1 million for the state's hatchery systems, which will allow IF&W to implement hatchery enhancements that will allow IF&W to eventually double the pounds of fish produced.
The funds will enhance the Department's Beginning With Habitat Program, which assists towns in planning responsible development that preserves open space as well as wildlife, fisheries and plant habitat. It also increases funding for Endangered Species research and conservation, as well as wetlands, amphibian and reptile conservation.
Sportsman and women will also have the opportunity to purchase a new license plate benefiting the department. The cost will be similar to other plates such as the loon or lobster plate, and the proceeds from this plate will go to the lifetime license fund, an endowment fund, from which interest from this fund will be used to help fund the department starting in 2010.
"It is my understanding that this new two year budget contains $3.8 million of general fund money, which not only allows us to continue performing our mission, but also creates new positions that will allow us to work on nongame and endangered species operations, and enhance our hatchery operations," Martin said.
The new superpack license will include all hunting authorities and some permits, as well as six chances in the moose lottery, and an any deer permit if over 5,000 are available in a wildlife management district. The budget also directs ATV registration money to trails, programs and enforcement. Boat registrations also increase under this budget.
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