CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Imagine a West Virginia hunting and fishing license that cost less than 20 bucks.
That's right. Instead of costing $35, the combination hunting-and-fishing "sportsman's license" could cost $19 or less.
But there's an "if" involved - and a pretty darned big one at that.
If everyone in the state who currently enjoys free hunting and fishing privileges were required to purchase a license, enough people would be paying for Division of Natural Resources' fish, wildlife and law enforcement programs to justify lowering the price.
"You have to wonder how much better off everyone would be if all sportsmen bought a cheap license," said Steve Brown, the DNR's senior planner. "More people would hunt and fish because licenses would be more affordable."
It's a little surprising - at least it was to me - that any representative of a state fish and wildlife agency would ever talk about lowering license prices. Since I started buying licenses in 1970, prices have gone nowhere but up.
Brown did the math to calculate the effect of a larger license-buying base because members of the Legislature are currently considering three bills that would likely have just the opposite effect. Each of the bills would force DNR officials to give free or heavily discounted licenses to specific groups of people.
One would allow present and past members of the armed services to purchase lifetime hunting and fishing licenses, which currently cost $805, for only $100. Another bill would grant free licenses to non-resident landowners and their resident children. Yet another would allow members of the West Virginia National Guard to obtain free annual licenses during their terms of service and, upon retirement from the Guard, free licenses for life.