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Hunting and fishing starts with you

If you've ever purchased a Washington hunting or fishing license, you may have wondered: Where does that money go?

User fees -- which include hunting and fishing licenses and endorsements, transaction fees, access passes like the Discover Pass, and other payments by users -- make up nearly a quarter of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) funding, and those fees flow directly back to support our state's diverse outdoor recreational interests. In other words, when you hunt or fish in Washington, you're helping ensure those same opportunities exist for future generations. Here's how.

What does WDFW do with user fees?

Nearly all recreational license fees are deposited into what's known as the State Wildlife Account. Part of the state budget, this account is separate from the rest of WDFW's budget and funds a variety of services, but much of the account is dedicated to providing fishing and hunting opportunities.

With those funds, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

  • Manages fish and game populations
  • Restores fish and wildlife habitat
  • Surveys and studies game species
  • Produces hatchery fish
  • Manages wildlife areas and boat launches
2015-17 user fee expenditures and revenue sources

Facts about user fees

Recreational license fees cannot be changed by WDFW or the Fish and Wildlife Commission. Only the Legislature – with approval from the governor – is able to increase those license fees. The Legislature has not increased recreational license fees since 2011. Before that, the last license fee increase came in 1999.

Fish and wildlife agencies across the country are seeing a fundamental shift in their customer base. WDFW license sales remain below pre-recession levels, resulting in a loss of about $5.4 million in license revenue per year. This decline likely has multiple causes, including decreased access to private lands, fewer opportunities for success, and changing customer profiles.

Because user fees accounts for nearly a quarter of WDFW's budget and user fee revenue fluctuates from year to year, WDFW hopes to stabilize funding by reducing its reliance on user fees in future budget proposals.

Although license fees are only one part of WDFW's budget, they remain our most important source of funding to support fishing and hunting opportunities in Washington.