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N.H. may put a price on the outdoors

CONCORD, N.H. -- Hikers, kayakers, and bird-watchers in New Hampshire may soon have to pay fees to help the Fish and Game Department raise $5 million and avoid a fiscal crisis.

For decades, the agency has financed its operating budget solely on revenue from hunting and fishing licenses, but its executive director, Lee Perry, said fewer people during the last 10 years have been hunting and fishing while more are kayaking, hiking, bird-watching, and doing other outdoor activities that carry no fees.

Fish and Game officials and the Fish and Game Commission are reviewing several possible options, including assessing new fees for answering bear nuisance calls and asking the Legislature to appropriate more money in the state budget, said Fish and Game Commissioner Ted Tichy of Milan.

Perry said the department has a $10 million budget for the biennium that ends in fiscal 2007. Going into the next two-year cycle, Perry added, Fish and Game will have $500,000 left in its cash reserves, which will not be enough.

The agency projects it will need an additional $5 million to maintain existing programs and maintain 48 full-time conservation officers.

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