Alaskan Ownership Stake Part II:
"Lifetime Hunting/Fishing/Trapping License"
Frequently Asked Questions
Alaska's unique character embodies independence and self-reliance – traits rooted in our history and lodestars for our future. That spirit is integral to "The Alaskan Ownership Stake" - a strategic plan for the future of our state that is designed to harness the power of Alaska resources, Alaskan initiative, and the free market for the benefit of all Alaskans.
The Lifetime License recognizes that we as a people are closely connected to the land and waters of our state, and that our heritage and culture is bound to our fish and game. In that spirit, a permanent Lifetime License makes it clear that our rights to hunt, fish and trap are a defining value and that our stake in these resources will be respected and protected.
Q.1 What is the Alaskan Ownership Stake?
Alaska's unique character embodies independence and self-reliance – traits rooted in our history and lodestars for our future. That spirit is integral to "The Alaskan Ownership Stake" - a strategic plan for the future of our state that is designed to harness the power of Alaskan resources, Alaskan initiative, and the free market for the benefit of all Alaskans. Alaska benefits when Alaskans have direct and permanent ties to our resources.
Part I of the plan, called "Own a Piece of the Pipe" introduced a concept that would allow individual Alaskans to choose to invest in the gas pipeline.
Part II creates the opportunity to purchase a Lifetime Hunting/Fishing/Trapping License. Here, where we are so closely tied to the land and waters of our state, where our heritage and culture is bound to our fish and game, a permanent Lifetime License makes it clear that our rights to hunt, fish and trap are a defining value and that our stake in these resources will be respected and protected.
Q.2 What is a lifetime hunting/fishing/trapping license?
A. Alaskan hunters, fishers and trappers would submit a one-time application, and pay a one-time fee, to secure their stake in Alaska by securing their right to hunt, fish and trap in our state for their lifetime. You wouldn't have to buy a new license every year. Once you qualify it would be a Lifetime License that you own and take with you wherever you go. Participants who buy a Lifetime License are also protecting themselves against inflation and the risk that annual license fees may be raised in the future. If they already own a Lifetime License they are protected from those future increases in prices.
Q.3 If I get a Lifetime License, does this mean I don't need to buy big game tags or stamps?
A. No, you would still need to buy annual tags and stamps required by the State. This program only applies to the underlying licenses themselves.
Q.4 How will Lifetime Licenses affect fish and game management practices in the state? Does it impact other uses such as subsistence or commercial uses?
A. There will be no negative impact on the management practices employed by state resource managers. There is also no impact to other users such as subsistence or commercial users because the Lifetime License is only applicable to recreational hunting and fishing, including subsistence use. If anything, this program will enhance our management options because it will generate more revenue in the early years that will be directly applied to projects and programs to manage and enhance our fish and game opportunities, all without raising taxes or creating new taxes.
Q.5 Why should Alaska adopt this program?
A. In addition to eliminating some annual bureaucratic hassles for Alaskan sportsmen and women, Lifetime Licenses generate more revenue for the existing Alaska Fish and Game Fund, thereby expanding the ability of the Fish and Game Department to enhance wildlife and fishery opportunities for sportsmen and women.
Lifetime Licenses also improve the tourism economy in our state. Qualified Alaskans can purchase Lifetime Licenses that will provide them with a stake in hunting and fishing rights in our state, even if they move. When they come back to Alaska they will be able to take advantage of their Lifetime Licenses for hunting and fishing, bringing their visitor dollars back to Alaska. And when they come back they are likely to bring friends or relatives with them, and those friends and relatives will buy the full price non-resident licenses and permits, generating more revenue to the Fish and Game Fund. As visitors, odds are that they will hire local guides, use local transportation, and stay in local lodging – which boosts the state's tourism economy.
Q.6 Does this lessen the amount of money brought into the State by not selling licenses every year?
A. There is a chance that eventually so many residents purchase Lifetime Licenses that we will see diminished revenue generated by the sale of annual resident licenses. However, that loss is offset because some people may purchase a Lifetime License who would not otherwise purchase annual licenses, and because this type of licensing will attract former Alaskans home to enjoy our recreational opportunities. For example, Alaska is home to approximately 25,000 military personnel. As new military personnel arrive in Alaska, as they become eligible to purchase resident Lifetime Licenses, we will likely see sales increase. In addition, through natural in-migration as people move to Alaska and current young people become of the age that they need to purchase licenses, we will see additional sales of Lifetime Licenses. Likewise, because the largest source of revenue from the sale of fishing and hunting license comes from non-residents coming to Alaska every year, that revenue source will likely remain largely unchanged under this program. Also, under this proposal all fishermen and hunters – regardless of whether they are resident or nonresidents – must still pay for King Stamps, waterfowl stamps and big game permits. That revenue source will not change.
Keep in the mind the largest source of license funds currently come from out of state non-residents who buy temporary licenses when they visit Alaska. That piece of the state's revenue stream will not change under this proposal.
Also, Alaska's population is aging and under current Alaska law, anyone age 60 or over can currently apply for a permanent license for hunting and fishing rights. According the most recent Alaska Fish and Game report for 2009, 6,359 Alaskans age 60 and over have permanent ID for fishing and hunting. As more Alaskans reach the age of 60, those Alaskans who would have paid for a hunting or fishing license every year no longer have to, meaning the state would eventually see declining revenue in the program anyway, unless the annual fee for each license is increased.
It is also important to use our financial resources as wisely as possible. The state needs to do more to enhance the hunting and fishing options for Alaskans, but that takes money. If we rely on a long range plan that waits for funds to come in too far down the road, inflation will increase the cost of those projects. If we can accelerate some revenue into the Alaska Fish and Game fund to move planned projects (such as fish hatcheries) off the shelf and into shovel ready status sooner then we will reduce the future costs of those projects. We will also be putting more Alaskans to work on those new projects. And, under the rules of the Fish and Game Fund, funds can be used to retire debt on qualified projects. If Alaskans decide they want to reduce the current debt load on existing publicly financed fish and game projects then some of these funds could be used for that purpose.
Q.7 Under your proposal, what if I am an Alaska resident when I buy my Lifetime License and I later leave the state and establish residency in another state?
A. Once you buy a Lifetime License it is yours to keep for your entire lifetime, regardless of where you live. If you become a resident of another state you would be entitled to come back to Alaska to use your Lifetime License. We would make sure all appropriate statutes in Alaska are amended to protect your right to use your Alaska Lifetime License.
You would still be required to buy any additional tags, stamps or permits that may be needed for your fish or game of choice at the cost then in effect. For example, if you wanted to fish for King Salmon, you would have to buy a King Salmon stamp.
Q.8 If I purchase a resident Lifetime License and I later become a resident of another state, would your plan require me to use an Alaska guide when I come back to Alaska to hunt?
A. Yes. Under this plan only hunters who are actual residents of the state of Alaska at the time of their hunt would be exempt from needing to hire an Alaska guide, just as is the current law. With a lifetime resident license you are buying the right to come back and hunt and fish in perpetuity, but you would still need to abide by all hunting and fishing regulations then in effect, including the use of local guides, as applicable.
Q.9 Alaska has a program for residents age 60 and older where they don't need to buy hunting, fishing or trapping licenses. If I am getting close to age 60, or I am currently 60 or older, why would I consider buying the Lifetime License you propose?
A. If you are close to turning 60 or you are already 60 or older this plan may not be right for you. But if you think you might be leaving Alaska to become a resident of another state you might decide to buy this license so that you can continue to come back to Alaska to enjoy our sport fish and wildlife.
Q.10 Could I buy a Lifetime License for another Alaska resident as a gift?
A. Yes. So long as the recipient of the Lifetime License is an Alaska resident at the time of the application you would be able to buy him or her a Lifetime License. We want to encourage as many Alaskans to have a stake in the future of our resources as possible, and I can envision a father or mother, an aunt or uncle or a grandfather or grandmother buying someone in their family a Lifetime License.
Q.11 How would your program deal with Alaska's low-income resident license program or the disabled veteran license program?
A. Under this proposal the current low income resident program and the disabled veteran program would not change.
Q.12 How much would a resident Lifetime License cost?
A. Initially I propose that a lifetime resident fishing license be sold for approximately $240. This is ten times the annual resident license of $24. Similarly, I am proposing selling a lifetime resident hunting license for $250, also ten times the annual hunting license. I propose a combination license be offered for $490. We would deal with lifetime trapping licenses in the same manner, $150 for a Lifetime License. (For consistency purposes those are the numbers I have based my additional assumptions and projections on throughout these FAQs). In addition, there would be a one time administrative fee (in my scenario I assume $25) for the cost of your Lifetime License and your certificate.
I understand that staff at the Alaska Division of Sport Fish and the Division of Wildlife Conservation might want to propose a different price structure. In addition, the Alaska Legislature will probably propose some price points of its own during debate on this proposal. The important thing to balance is making this piece of the Alaskan Ownership Stake affordable to average Alaskans while also maintaining the financial integrity of the various fish and game programs into the future.
Q.13 How many licenses are currently sold in Alaska?
A. According to 2009 Alaska Fish and Game reports:
Total resident fishing, hunting and trapping (and combination) licenses sold in 2009 were 338,613. These totals include 6,359 permanent ID cards given to Alaskans 60 and older. These totals exclude the sales of resident King Stamps and other big game tags. Combined, the sales of these resident licenses (excluding stamps and tags), generated net revenue of $5.8 million.
Total nonresident fishing, hunting and trapping (or combination) licenses sold in 2009 totaled 269,955. These figures exclude additional non-resident King Stamps and big game tags. The sales of these non-resident licenses generated net revenue of $11.8 million. Under my proposal this number is not likely to change dramatically unless an unusually large number of Alaskans who are Lifetime License holders choose to leave the state and come back in the future. In that case they will be bringing back with them tourist dollars, including friends and family who are all likely to buy a full price non-resident license of one form or another. In addition, they are likely to use the services of local guides, stay in local hotels, B&Bs, or lodges, purchase airfare and generally spend money in the state.
The sale of additional King Stamps and big game tags generates another $6.2 million from resident and non-residents. Under my proposal this would not change because those would still have to be purchased by residents and non-residents alike.
Q.14 What is the current budget for Sport Fish Management in Alaska?
A. According to the Sport Fish Division Strategic Plan it has an annual budget of approximately $50 million. Nearly all of the funds are derived from user-pay sources including the sale of fishing licenses, stamps, and sport fishing-related equipment and fuel. The primary funding sources are the Alaska Fish and Game Fund and the federal Sport Fish Restoration Program. The Division of Sport Fisheries oversees Alaska's sport fisheries, with an estimated total annual economic impact of $1.4 billion. The federal Sport Fish Restoration Program is administered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The program (WSFR) works with states, insular areas and the District of Columbia to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, their habitats, and the hunting, sport fishing and recreational boating opportunities they provide. The federal Division of Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program provides oversight and/or administrative support for the following grant programs:
Wildlife Restoration Grant Program
Sport Fish Restoration Grant Program
Clean Vessel Act Grant Program
Boating Infrastructure Grant Program
National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program
State Wildlife Grant Program
Landowner Incentive Grant Program
Multistate Grant Program
Tribal Wildlife Grant Program
Tribal Landowner Incentive Grant Program
Q.15 Where does the Alaska Division of Wildlife Conservation derive its funding?
A. Approximately 90 percent of the Division of Wildlife Conservation's funding is provided by hunters and trappers through license and tag fees and matching federal funds derived from excise taxes on firearms, ammunition and archery equipment. The economic value of hunting in Alaska annually exceeds $100 million, excluding the value of subsistence harvests. Revenue into the Fish and Game Fund has increased since 1993 as a result of increased resident hunting and trapping license fees. Alaska's federal aid apportionments, known as Pittman-Robertson (PR) funds, have also increased substantially in recent years.
Q.16 How much money could be raised by the sale of Lifetime Licenses?
A. Based on my assumptions, in the early years the program could generate an extra $12.5 million per year for the Alaska Fish and Game Fund. To reach this figure I assume the following:
- a resident lifetime fishing license cost of $240
- a resident lifetime hunting license cost of $250
- a resident lifetime trapping license of $150
- a one-time admin and printing fee of $25 per new Lifetime License
- 15% participation each year of the eligible population
These numbers will obviously change if you use different assumptions. In addition, as part of the legislative process the debate over the appropriate charges may result in different pricing than what I propose above.
Q.17 Where would the money go that is raised by the Lifetime License sales?
A. Under current state law all proceeds from the sale of fishing and hunting licenses already go to the existing Alaska Fish and Game Fund. My proposal would not change that. All proceeds from the sale of these new Lifetime Licenses would go to the same fund that currently exists.
Q.18 What is the Alaska Fish and Game Fund?
A. The Alaska Fish and Game Fund provides funding for various fish and game programs. Examples include habitat restoration, program and department management expenses, debt retirement for fish and game related construction and rehabilitation projects and other programs. The Fish and Game fund is authorized in the Alaska Statutes at AS 16.05.100.
Q.19 Where do the Fish and Game Fund's monies come from?
A. Alaska statutes provide for the source of funding to the Fish and Game Fund (AS 16.05.110). Sources include:- money received from the sale of state sport fishing, hunting, and trapping licenses, tags, and special permits, waterfowl conservation tags purchased by hunters, and anadromous salmon tags purchased by fishermen;
- proceeds received from the sale of furs, skins, and specimens taken by predator hunters and other employees;
- money received in settlement of a claim or loss caused by damage to the fish and game resources of the state;
- money received from federal, state, or other governmental unit, or from a private donor for fish and game purposes;
- interest earned upon money in the fund;
- money from any other source.
Q.20 Would your plan reduce the amount of federal matching funds Alaska currently gets from specific programs tied to the sale of hunting or fishing licenses, such as the Pittman-Robertson program or the Dingell-Johnson program?
A. Those matching federal programs are a critical piece of the state's funding plan for hunting and fishing management and the Alaska Fish and Game Fund. My Administration will take extra care in drafting the statutory details of this Lifetime License to make sure we do not reduce Alaska's rights to the matching funds we are entitled to under federal statutes. We will not allow a program to be put in place that jeopardizes this important source of funding and will consult with the 27 other states who have implemented this idea to ensure that we do not risk matching federal funds. I believe we can use our creativity to shape this Lifetime License opportunity for Alaskans while complying with federal matching guidelines.
Q.21 If Lifetime License program were put into law for all resident and Military personnel, how do I know the extra money going into the Fish and Game Fund would not be diverted for other purposes by the Legislature?
A. Alaska law is very specific about the use of funds from the sale of fishing and hunting licenses. AS 16.05.130 provides that funds generated by the sale of licenses must be used by the Department of Fish and Game for related fish and game programs. In that way protections are already built into the proper use of the new funds that would be generated by this Lifetime License plan.
Q.22 Do other states have similar programs?
A. A review of all 50 states shows that at least 27 other states allow residents to buy some form of a lifetime fishing or hunting license. Below are the states and the web addresses where you can find out more about each state program.
In addition, the state of South Dakota is currently examining this option.
Q.23 What are the costs to buy Lifetime Licenses in the other states?
A. The costs for other state licenses vary greatly. For example, a lifetime hunting license in Iowa is $52.50, while a lifetime hunting license in Texas is $1,000. In addition, many states offer lower cost pricing for residents as they get older.
Q.24 What would a Lifetime License look like?
A. I believe a Lifetime License should, in fact, last a lifetime. Therefore, I propose each purchaser of a Lifetime License would get a durable and waterproof plastic card the size of your driver's license to hold in your wallet. In addition, each purchaser of a Lifetime License would get a certificate or plaque suitable for displaying. You can see a sample Lifetime License on my website, www.EthanBerkowitz.com, where you can also request one and read more about the Alaskan Ownership Stake.
Keep in mind these cards and certificates are merely samples. As part of my plan I intend to harness the creativity of Alaska wildlife artists through a competition whereby they would submit their designs in a competition for the type of artwork that should appear on the license card and certificate.
 State of Alaska Division of Sport Fish Strategic Plan 2010-2014.
 The sponsor of the legislation before the South Dakota House of Representatives checked with a number of other states who currently have this system, and found that if they had it to do all over again they would. See http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/news/article_9e00ec10-11e5-11df-9cac-001cc4c002e0.html.