Midwest: Tax Me For Trout

I like to ply Wisconsin trout streams. I think I should pay my fair share for the privilege.

So does Trout Unlimited. The organization’s Wisconsin chapter is lobbying the Legislature to increase the trout stamp from $10 to $15. When you buy a Wisconsin fishing license you have the option of purchasing an inland and/or Great Lakes trout stamp. The extra money goes to rehabilitate trout streams. In an average year DNR gets to about 25 miles of stream. With the increase they could rehab around 35 or 40 miles annually.

Makes sense to me. And all we’re really doing here is keeping up with inflation. Ten bucks in 2006, the last year the price of the stamp was increased, would be almost exactly $15 today, just a tad more, in fact.

And, of course, improving trout habitat is good for all of us, not just those of us who try to catch fish. Trout are finicky creatures. They have a low tolerance for water that is too warm or too dirty. Make things good for trout and you provide cleaner water and a better, prettier environment for everybody. It’s been said that trout don’t live in ugly places.

Gov. Tony Evers heeded the call in his proposed budget, but the Republicans in the Legislature will wipe the slate clean and start over. Let’s hope they follow the Governor’s and Trout Unlimited’s lead and restore the increase. When a taxed group tells them that it wants to be taxed some more, legislators should listen and not force their own hard-core, anti-tax ideology on people who see the benefit in paying for what’s in their own interests.

And while we’re at it (can you tell I just received my TU state newsletter?) we should also support state purchase of an easement on 70,000 acres that will protect the headwaters of the Wolf River, a great Wisconsin trout fishery. The story here is that the Natural Resources Board — including the Republican members — voted to approve the purchase. It’s a bargain at $15.5 million and it won’t even cost Wisconsinites that much because the feds will pick up most of that. The cost to the state Stewardship Fund is only $4 million.

Sen. Mary Felzkowski

Still, State Sen. Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) objected and she had the power to stop the project because of a rule that allows any single legislator to block a purchase of a certain size in the north. She worries that this will hurt economic development in the north woods. The property, which would be called the Pelican River State Forest, is east of Rhinelander in her district. In response to her concerns the DNR has proposed that it would exclude land adjacent to major highways from the easement, essentially allowing any development that might occur to happen, since the vast majority of the acreage is interior lands that couldn’t be accessed for development anyway. And the easement never would have stopped logging, which is the main resource development use on the land.

Moreover, there are obvious economic development benefits to outdoor recreation. Trout bums spend money. What the easement will really stop is any potential mining. If that’s what’s really behind this with Felzkowski, well then, that’s a big problem. Mining and trout do not mix too well.

Welcome to Midwest, an occasional feature here at YSDA, where we explore what’s good about the center. Want to read more about why it’s best to be in the middle? Pick up a copy of Light Blue: How center-left moderates can build an enduring Democratic majority.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

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