The Iowa Legislature has voted to make Iowans who get hunting and fishing licenses pay another $3 — money that backers say is literally "for the birds."
The extra money, called a "habitat fee," will go toward improving living areas for birds according to Representative John Whitaker, a Democrat from Hillsboro, says $1 of the $3 will go toward the enhancement of "buffer strips" in farm fields. "We have a lot of buffer strips that have been put in Iowa. They are good habitat, but they’re not the best," Whitaker says. "…It may require some more species of plants and things like that to make it better for pheasants and other birds and song birds."
The rest of the newly-raised money will be dedicated to the restoration of wetland areas where ducks and other birds often congregate. "You’ll see pheasants and other ground-nesting birds around wetlands, around the shores…because the habitat is so heavy it proves some good cover in a winter storm," Whitaker says.
Representative Jim Lykam, a Democrat from Davenport, says he’s worried about the fee hike on top of a hunting and fishing license, which already costs more than $40. "It is tougher and tougher for a lot of people to afford that, especially maybe if you’ve got a couple of kids who are between 16 and 18," Lykam says. "If you want to take ’em out with you, they have to be fully licensed."
Lykam says he went hunting and fishing nearly every weekend when he was a kid, and he hopes the legislature isn’t raising the license fees so high that some Iowans won’t be able to hunt or fish. "To me, I think that hunting and fishing should be a class of recreation that’s available to everybody, not just that are able to afford (the licenses)," Lykam says.
The bill cleared the House and Senate over those objections. The new $3 fee goes into effect July 1, 2007.