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Conservation seeks to raise price of hunting, fishing permits

by Ryan Pivoney | May 24, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
The Missouri Department of Conservation reports 16,032 deer were harvested during the antlerless portion of the 2022 deer season from Dec. 3-11. Top harvest counties were Callaway, Pike and Macon. (Photo courtesy of MDC)

The Missouri Department of Conservation is proposing an increase to the price of hunting, fishing, trapping and commercial permits.

The Missouri Conservation Commission granted MDC initial approval to raise permit prices at its May 19 meeting. The state agency will collect public input on the adjustments before making a final decision in September.

The proposal would change the cost of nearly 80 permits in total, raising prices anywhere from $0.50 to $95. Lifelong permits and commercial permits for non-residents are among the steepest price hikes. Most resident hunting and fishing permit prices will increase by $1 under the proposal, according to MDC Director Sara Parker Pauley.

Those under 16 and over 65 years of age would still get no-cost small-game hunting permits and no-cost fishing permits.

Pauley said MDC needs additional revenue to keep up with rising costs related to managing more than 1,000 conservation areas, 70 shooting ranges, 15 nature centers, nine fish hatcheries and other operations and facilities.

"In early 2003, the price of a resident firearms deer permit was $17 and the cost of a gallon of unleaded gas was $1.42," Pauley said. "Jump ahead two decades to May 2023 when the cost of a resident firearms deer permit is still $17 while the cost of a gallon of gas is about $3.30. That cost increase really adds up considering MDC purchased nearly 908,000 gallons of gas in 2022 to run vehicles and equipment."

MDC's revenue has grown by roughly $93.6 million, or nearly 65 percent, over the same 20-year period as operations are largely supported by the state's conservation sales tax.

MDC's total revenue in 2003 was $144.1 million, according to the department's annual report that year. More than $29.9 million came from permit sales and nearly $89.9 million came from the sales tax. With the addition of federal and other funds, spending that year totaled $141.1 million.

The department's total revenue from the most recent fiscal year was $237.8 million, according to the annual report released in January. More than $41.1 million came from permit sales and more than $148.4 million came from the sales tax. Spending totaled $201.3 million.

The sales tax provides MDC one penny for every $8 spent on taxable goods in Missouri. Revenue from the tax grows as prices increase with inflation, and it amounted to more than 62 percent of the agency's budget in fiscal year 2022. Permit sales amounted to about 17 percent of revenue last year.

MDC issues nearly 2.6 million hunting, fishing and trapping permits each year. The state is home to more than 1 million anglers, 500,000 hunters and several thousand trappers, according to the department, but those numbers are on a slow decline.

Several permit prices have not changed in decades while others, such as the daily fishing permit and permits for hunters and trappers coming from out of state, were adjusted in 2020.

The proposed permit price increases are expected to generate the state agency an extra $800,000 in 2024 and $2.2 million in 2025 before settling at $1.9 million in 2027 and 2028, according to its website.

In addition to supporting ongoing operations, Pauley said the additional funding will help the agency meet "new and expensive challenges," such as curbing new invasive species and wildlife disease outbreaks.

"The costs of many things we must buy regularly keep going up, from fuel to fish food," she said.

Pauley said Missouri's permit prices are lower or comparable to other states and "would still be a bargain," if increased. The average deer hunting permit costs $54 in surrounding states and $18 in Missouri if increased.

The complete list of proposed permit price increases can be found on MDC's website at

The agency will start collecting public feedback on the proposal July 4 and keep the comment period open through Aug. 2. Comments can be submitted online at MDC's website.

MDC will compile the responses and present them to the Missouri Conservation Commission ahead of its Sept. 8 meeting, when the commission will make a final decision. The price increases will become effective Feb. 29, 2024, if approved.

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