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WHAT'S UP WITH PERMITS

Sharon Fockler answers the switchboard at the Conservation Department's Central Office here in Jefferson City. She's one of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet, and one of the best-natured. But strain showed in her voice just a little when she called last month to report receiving many angry calls about permits for 1996.

Many readers of the December Conservationist thought the summary of new permits for 1996, printed in the Almanac section, was an all encompassing list of permits and their prices. So the $57 and $70 price tags for new permits called the "All Hunting" and "Annual Wildlife Conservation" permits had dedicated sportsmen and women understandably worried.

We're sorry for the misunderstanding, and to correct it, this month's "Almanac" has a complete listing of all permits for 1996-1997, including changed permits, new prices, and permits offered for the first time in 1996. The changes are in response to public requests for more permit choices.

Lifetime permits, for example, are offered for the first time this year. Their hefty prices for $400 each for lifetime hunting and lifetime fishing, or the combined "Conservation Partner" permit at $800, are expected to attract a few dedicated hunters and anglers. One avid sportsman wrote to us, saying that at age 43 the lifetime permits didn't make sense for him. He's absolutely right.

The prices represent a commitment to hunting and fishing from one generation to another. Our fiscal staff figures the lifetime permits will take 28 to 32 years to pay for themselves. But for a youngster the age of, say, the boy on our front cover, lifetime permits are a bargain. The price seems high, but rolled into it is the Conservation Department's cost to track and update files on lifetime permit holders for years into the future.

Lifetime permits are also a hedge against inflation. How much will hunting permits cost when the young hunter on the cover is 43? That's anybody's guess. Other states offer lifetime permits, too, and many Missouri residents asked the Conservation Department to consider establishing this long lasting permit.

For the dedicated hunter and angler, and those who want their love of the outdoors to extend to the next generation, lifetime permits are both a practical and symbolic way to honor their sports.

The $57 and $70 price tags for the "All Hunting" permit and the "Annual Wildlife Conservation Permit" are, in fact, bargains for those who annually purchase all the permits they encompass. The "All Hunting" permit, for example, includes: small game, migratory birds, spring and fall turkey, a total of $61 in permits. The "Annual Wildlife Conservation" permit includes: hunting and fishing (including trout, except for daily tags), migratory birds, spring and fall turkey, firearms deer, and archery deer and turkey, a total of $73 in permits - modest savings, to be sure, until you factor in the convenience of buying just one annual permit for all your outdoor interests.

"Convenience" was an important word when the Conservation Department devised the new permits and the point-of-sale system for purchasing them. The "Missouri Conservation Heritage Card" encodes all the information needed to purchase hunting and fishing permits in a magnetic strip, much like a credit card. Clerks need merely pass the card through their scanners to record your information and issue your permit. Shaving minutes off the time needed to purchase hunting and fishing permits may not provide that vacation you've been needing, but it helps.

In 1996, permit buyers are offered more choices, more convenience and at reasonable prices. So if you have a gripe, by all means let us know. Just don't call Sharon. She's a nice person.

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