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Letter: Hunting, fishing licenses should be free

To the Editor:

The State of Maine, by eliminating hunting and fishing licenses for its residents, has an opportunity to propel our state into the future.

Let us first ask why a Maine resident should require a license to hunt or fish. Except as a source of state revenue, there is no compelling reason that can’t be answered by acceptable identification and a computer. These would, as effectively as paper licenses, prevent poaching.

The world has changed, and the now popular use of handheld devices, capable of sending data and messages, makes self-registration of game possible and, if necessary, can even include a game photo.

This proposal for free licenses is really about efficiency. How efficient is it to annually require every active hunter and fisherman in the State of Maine, or their spouse, to visit their town hall, engage a municipal employee and pay a licensing and processing fee?

Why should it be the purpose of government to require these licenses, just so they can use this hidden tax to wrest a few extra dollars from citizens who would like to live their lives as freely as possible? How efficient is it to employ state “bean counters” to collect these funds, ensure town offices have their collection fee, then print and distribute licenses and account for the money collected?

Any who oppose free licenses, despite any reason they put forth, do so to preserve it as a revenue source. To test the true need for paper licenses, let’s propose that they be free. Then ask opponents if the state then has a reason so compelling that it is willing to bear the cost of issuing them.

However, even a noble and farsighted legislator will not surrender a source of state revenue without locating an alternative source. The less noble and even if equally farsighted will not give up any source of funding and instead seek ways to increase it.

Accordingly, it is generally known and accepted that our state has a bloated bureaucracy. Reducing its size and expense could produce savings for free licenses and for other improvements to government. And there is a simple way to accomplish this: it would only be necessary to implement policy that would require the loss of three state employees, by retirement or any other happenstance before one additional employee vacancy is filled.

This will then require department heads to be judicious and persuasive in hiring and placing workers. We can amend this policy once our state has shrunk its bureaucracy and it ranks no higher than 40th in size per capita.

As citizens, we are disappointed in our government; we know more by our feelings than by specifics that it is not serving us well. We are easily confused by arguments from various and persuasive political groups, who—similar to participants in a tug of war—make little progress, one way or the other, to help us to truly understand.

It is the nature of political argument that either side can be supported by glib advocates. What would be easily understood—and remembered—is free hunting and fishing licenses. It might also provide hope that the enormous rock of government can be moved, even if only slightly.

In the interest of disclosure, I no longer hunt. Because I am over 70, I am entitled to a free lifetime hunting and fishing license. My license and the free licenses I proposed are not really that radical. In 1919, when hunting and fishing licenses were first issued, a lifetime license could be purchased for a quarter.

Richard Sabine


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