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Washington Imposes New Fees to Use Public Lands - Some Hunters May Be Double-Taxed!

Monday, August 29, 2011

With the start of the 2011 hunting seasons upon us, Washington hunters need to be aware of a new tax they may have to pay.  Due to Washington’s budget crisis, the state Legislature imposed new fees to use public lands beginning July 1, 2011.  The fees come in the form of the new “Discover Pass,” which costs $30 for an annual pass and $10 for a day pass (additional processing fees apply).  This excerpt from the Discover Pass website lists what areas the pass applies to:

The pass allows access to state recreation lands and water access sites managed by Washington State Parks (State Parks), Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR). These lands include state parks, water access points, heritage sites, wildlife and natural areas, trails and trailheads.  The Discover Pass will be needed to access DNR’s developed or designated recreation areas, sites, trailheads and parking areas.

There are some exemptions for this pass.  For a complete list, see “Do I Need a Discover Pass?”.  The primary impact on hunters will be for those who hunt on DNR land.  The Discover Pass is not required for holders of certain hunting and fishing licenses on WDFW recreation lands and water-access sites.  For those individuals, a "WDFW vehicle access pass" will be required for vehicle access to WDFW lands and boat launches.

The penalty for failing to display/possess a Discover Pass is $99.  The fine will be reduced to $59 if proof-of-purchase of the pass is provided to the court within 15 days of the violation notice.

For more information about this pass, please see the FAQ page on the Discover Pass website.  Also, for additional information regarding the Discover Pass and current hunting and fishing license holders, please visit the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website.

Of particular interest to hunters should be the fact that 84% of the revenue from the Discover Pass will go to the State Parks, even though hunters are not allowed to hunt in State Parks.  Hunters already pay more than their fair share through license fees and taxes on shooting and hunting equipment and should not be taxed to support lands they cannot access for hunting.  For those who are interested, click here to view Senate Bill 5622, the bill that imposed this new tax. 

Hunters should contact their legislators and bring to their attention the inequity of this new tax and urge them to support legislation in 2012 to exempt all hunters from the provisions and/or divert more funding to lands used by hunters.  To find your legislators, please click here.

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