DNR Going With New License System

Hunting and fishing license sales and boat registration will use an Internet-based system funded by fee increases to sportsmen

GON Staff | April 29, 2008

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will not delay a contract to outsource the sales of hunting and fishing licenses and boat registration, despite calls to explore alternatives by sportsmen.

In a letter to DNR Commissioner Noel Holcomb signed by 32 conservation organizations — from the National Wild Turkey Federation to the Georgia Bass Chapter Federation and everyone in between — the department was criticized for not including sportsmen in the decision-making process. DNR has been urged to consider keeping license sales under its own control and management instead of outsourcing it to a private company.

The Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) also preferred an in-house system as early as 2006 when WRD formally requested funds to update the license-sales system in its budget proposal that year. But DNR, WRD’s parent agency, did not include WRD’s request to fund the license-sales system when it sent a proposed budget to the governor’s office.

The current license-sales system uses outdated computers and machines that are so old they cannot be repaired or replaced, leaving DNR without the option of continuing with the current system, according to a letter to GON from Dan Forster, director of WRD.

Forster also touts the benefits of the new system, which will be run by Central Bank, a Missouri company.

“The new system is web-based, offering immediate accessibility to anyone with a computer and web service,” Forster said. “Additionally, licenses will be available by telephone, a convenient option that has not been available to customers for over a year. Even though virtually everyone has access to a computer (work, home, local library, etc.), there still will be some walk-in vendors available.”

The new system is designed to steer most license sales to the Internet. Phone sales are accepted, but over time service charges will increase for phone transactions while decreasing for Internet sales. Most over-the-counter outlets where sportsmen purchase licenses will no longer sell them, particularly in rural areas. Over-the-counter sales are excepted to continue at large-volume retailers, primarily those near areas with high populations. Sportsmen who don’t use credit cards for Internet and telephone purchases are angry over the possibility of not having a local store where they can walk in and purchase a license.

The cost of the new system, to be paid for entirely by sportsmen through a new service charge, tacks on a significant increase to license fees — more than the fee increases for land-acquisition programs that sportsmen championed during the past two license-fee increases. The new system adds $2.75 to the cost of licenses for online transactions or $4 for telephone purchases. The online service charge would drop to $2.50 after two years, but the service charge for telephone purchases would increase 25 percent to $5. The service charge for boat registration will be $8 this year and $10 within three years. Service charges will not apply to honorary or lifetime license holders to get a deer-harvest record.

Another issue that angered some sportsmen is that personal information of all license buyers will be available under the new system. Forster said there is no way to protect personal information under the new system.

“Name and address are protected now because they come from the drivers-license database not because a drivers-license number also is collected. Once someone renews a license through the new system, name and address comes from the customer at the point of sale not from a match with the drivers-license database,” Forster said.

“Data, such as name and address, held by any government agency is public record except for a few special circumstances specifically excluded in law,” he said.

DNR’s projected start dates for the new system are Sept. 15 for boat registration and Jan. 1, 2009 for hunting and fishing license sales.

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