It is the beginning of the new month and I am filling out the Maine Outdoors monthly license sales report for any fishing or hunting licenses that I have sold. Honestly few this time of year, only mine in January. To some it seems like a license is a nuisance and impedes the fun. Licenses have been included in Maine Outdoors trips for now over twenty years because of my commitment to supporting the research and management of our fish and wildlife. I can help each client support the resources that they are here to enjoy. Something that to a person they support.
There is a cloud on the long-term horizon. The baby boom generation that has been buying the bulk of fishing and hunting licenses for some time now is aging. They will soon stop buying licenses. This is not new news, I gave that exact analysis to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife staff when I worked there more than fifteen years ago and included it in the small business seminar I used to offer my fellow guides. Simply put in ten or so years the funding stream dries up to a trickle and it is now a looming emergency. What is news is that some of the folks whose very work and paychecks depend on the income from those licenses have begun to notice.
The problem now is though that customers have changed in many ways and any small barrier can prevent a sale. Try asking Alexa to purchase a Maine fishing license today or setting up a guide as a new license agent. The bureaucracy we built to manage our resources became one of regulation and restriction rather than one that is welcoming, and sales oriented. It lacks an eye toward cultivating long term customer and partner relationships. Let alone seeking willing or innovative sales partners. The baby boomers (yes me too) put up with that and jumped through many hoops for their outdoor recreation. Not so today.
I don’t have the answer to this one but know that the current efforts, including mine are far short of what is needed. We have some time but not a lot. As someone in a partner business it is important to both of us, the private sector understands sales in ways a regulatory agency simply cannot. Clearly guides and outfitters have a lot to offer here. This issue will require a lot of coordinated effort and thinking if we can get everyone working on it.