Fund to give wounded Kansas vets free licenses often dry

A program to furnish wounded Kansas veterans with free hunting and fishing licenses is again out of money, according to Mike Miller, Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism information chief. Miller said the program was started by legislative mandate several years ago and is for those with 30 percent or more service-related disabilities.

“(The legislature) has furnished us with about $39,000 for the program annually,” said Miller. “We’ve run out each of the past two Februaries. I think it’s the demand increasing as more people find out about it.”

The recent increase in license prices have added to the limitations, too. Most who apply want a combination hunting/fishing permit, which cost $36 in 2015. Now they can cost up to $45.

Miller said a list is kept of those who have applied but turned down because of a lack of funding. When more money becomes available with the upcoming fiscal year, they’ll be issued licenses until that funding is gone, too.

Wildlife and Parks has a policy of not issuing free hunting or fishing permits from their own budget, which has been tight the past many years. They do, though, provide an option for those who purchase licenses online to donate to the cause. Miller did not know how much was annually raised from such contributions.

The state provides money for Kansas National Guard members to get free hunting, fishing licenses and annual state park permits. So far, that program is adequately funded.

Recently the department got a gift of $1,000 to be put toward the wounded veterans program from the Outdoor Writers of Kansas, a non-profit group that also funds a variety of youth events.

“As soon as we get that $1,000 check in the account, we’ll issue more hunting and fishing license to disabled veterans until that money’s gone, too,” said Miller. “It’s a great program, it just needs some more money to make everybody happy.”

State parks, tourism to take funding cuts – Gov. Sam Brownback’s recent announcement that state agencies will take a 4-percent reduction from state coffers has hit Kansas state parks and the state’s tourism department. Both annually receive some funding gained from the state lottery. The reduction will begin with the 2017 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Chris Tymeson, Wildlife and Parks attorney, said they’re expecting a combined reduction of about $208,000. He expects state parks to loose a little more from their budget than tourism.