OLYMPIA -- Buying a Washington state hunting or fishing license will be a lot easier next year with the help of a new computerized licensing system now being designed for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
The agency has signed a contract with MCI Worldcom Communications Inc. to develop and maintain a computerized system that will allow Washington residents and non-residents to buy hunting and fishing licenses over the Internet or by phone.
It will also speed up over-the-counter sales and allow the department to keep up-to-the-minute records of license sales.
Bruce Crawford, manager of WDFW's licensing program, said testing of the new Washington Interactive Licensing Database (WILD) system will begin this summer at WDFW regional offices with full deployment at all 700 dealers expected by spring 2001. Telephone and Internet service is expected to be on line by winter of this year.
"The new system will eliminate a lot of paperwork and bring license sales on line for the 21st century," said Crawford, noting that Oregon and Idaho installed similar systems several years ago. "Where it currently takes from five to ten minutes to fill out all the paperwork for a hunting or fishing license, it should take about two minutes once WILD is up and running."
In addition to the added convenience for customers, the new licensing system will also allow the department to maintain a complete, up-to-the-minute record of license sales, eliminating the need for tallying paper receipts by hand. The new telephone and Internet service will also allow the agency to collect hunting and fishing survey information more quickly and accurately, giving resource managers better information to set seasons and harvest levels, Crawford said.
WILD will be financed with a new transaction fee approved by the 1999 Legislature. Under the terms of the contract with WDFW, MCI will provide all computer hardware and software, as well as training for the agency's 700 license dealers, in return for a 9.5 percent transaction fee on the price of a license.
Beginning March 1, 2001, for example, a resident freshwater fishing license would cost $20 plus a $1.90 transaction fee, which will go to MCI. Customers will still pay a separate dealer handling fee of $2.00 in addition to the new transaction fee for most purchases.
The contract stipulates that MCI will maintain the system for at least six years at least through June 30, 2006 and must give the agency at least 180 days notice if it wants to terminate the contract after that time.
Under the WILD system, those who purchase licenses by phone will be issued an authorization number so they can begin fishing or hunting right away if those licenses do not require an accompanying game tag or catch record card. Those who purchase licenses via the Internet can print them out on their home printer or have them mailed. Game tags and catch cards will be sent through the mail to those who buy licenses by phone or the Internet.
"This system is designed to make life easier for our customers, our dealers and the department," Crawford said. "That was our mandate from the Legislature and that's what we plan to do under this contract with MCI."
The department has already met with license dealers and the public in Tacoma to discuss the WILD system, and has scheduled another meeting April 5 in Spokane. That meeting will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Spokane Falls Community College, Rooms A and B, West 3410 Fort George Wright Drive.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will also discuss administrative rules necessary to implement the new automated licensing system at its meeting April 7-8 in Yakima. The public will have an opportunity to comment on the proposed rules at that meeting and can also send written comments to Diane Ludwig at the WDFW License Division, 600 Capital Way N., Olympia, Wash. 98501-1091 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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