Proposal would increase cost of Georgia’s hunting, fishing license fees

The cost to hunt and fish in Georgia would increase under a proposal in the state Legislature, after a state audit late last year found that the fees were likely too low and costing millions of dollars toward hiring more rangers and making other improvements.

House Bill 208, sponsored by state Rep. Trey Rhodes, R-Greensboro, would raise the cost of a basic annual fish and hunt license to $25 and simplify and reduce the total number of licenses required to hunt and fish in Georgia. It would also abolish certain fee exemptions and create a more structured fee schedule for anyone wanting to buy a lifetime license.

State auditors had encouraged the increases after finding that Georgia’s fees are substantially lower than other southeastern states and certain fee exemptions — such as free lifetime licenses for all residents 65 and older — prevented the state from qualifying for federal grants worth millions of dollars.

The state Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division could bring in $4.4 million to $6.7 million more annually if it bumped up fees to the average charged in the Southeast, according to the analysis.

The fees, which currently start at $17 annually for a basic fish and hunt license, have not increased since 1992. By comparison, South Carolina – which has the second-lowest fee among southeastern region’s six states — charges $22 for a comparable license. Florida charges $32.50.

The department, which can’t raise rates without approval from state lawmakers, supports the legislation. Officials have anticipated being able to hire roughly 40 new rangers with the money.