CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire has announced a new system for issuing the permits that regulate bear hunting guides.

New rules increase the number of permits from 35 to 50 and establish a two-tiered system:

—Group A permits are grandfathered and eligibility continues from year to year according to the new rules. Initial eligibility is based on having held a permit for five or more years of the past 13. Letters informing those eligible for Group A permits are being sent out.

—Group B permits will be awarded through a random drawing from the pool of eligible applicants.

Department records show that 38 guides are eligible for Group A permits. A waiting list for these permits will be based on the number of years a guide applies for Group B permits.

To be selected for a bear guide permit, applicants must also be licensed New Hampshire hunting guides.

"We have worked with our constituents and the Fish and Game Commission over many months to ensure that the new process allows us to meet the needs of the guides while sustaining our ability to properly manage our bear population," said Wildlife Division Chief Mark Ellingwood.

Previously, bear guide permits were given out on a first-come, first-serve basis. In recent years, that has resulted in applicants standing in line outside the Fish and Game Department for hours or even days for a chance to get a permit.

Applications for both Group A and Group B bear guide permits must be received by Jan. 16. Application forms are available on the Fish and Game department website: