Colorado lawmakers consider fee increase to fund Parks & Wildlife | SkyHiNews.com

Colorado lawmakers consider fee increase to fund Parks & Wildlife

The price of hunting licenses may be on the rise with the Hunting, Fishing and Parks for Future Generations Act headed in front of the state Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday.

The population in booming, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife is looking for solutions to keep up.

A bipartisan team of Colorado lawmakers is pushing the Hunting, Fishing, and Parks for Future Generations Act in front of the state Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, in an effort to find long-term funding solutions for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, or CPW.

The bill was introduced on Jan. 29, and is sponsored by state Senators Don Coram (R-Montrose) and Stephen Fenberg (D-Boulder), along with Representatives Jeni Arndt (D-Fort Collins) and Jim Wilson (R-Salida).

CPW is funded almost entirely by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, state park passes and camping fees, with less than one percent of the department's annual budget stemming from general fund tax revenue. The price points for hunting and fishing licenses are set in statute, and haven't been changed since 2005, despite an almost 30 percent increase in inflation in that same timeframe.

As a result CPW has cut or defunded 50 positions and reduced about $40 million from its wildlife budget since 2009. Cuts include the elimination of the Big Game Access Program, cuts to Aquatic Nuisance Species funding, diminished investments in capital improvement projects and more. The new bill is meant to allow CPW to increase fees to cover rising costs associated with managing wildlife, protecting habitat and maintaining state parks.

"Recreation needs conservation, otherwise we have no place to play, and conservation needs recreation. Or wild spaces, our wildlife and natural resources need people to care enough to invest in them for the long term," said Bob Broscheid, CPW director. "All Coloradans benefit from healthy parks and abundant wildlife – they bring us a sense of place and purpose."

The bill would adjust fees for hunting and fishing licenses, including most multi-day and annual licenses and passes. Most prices would be raised by $8. For example the cost of an elk tag would increase from $45 to $53. The bill also allows CPW to raise state park entrance fees by $1 in any year for a daily pass and $10 for an annual pass. The bill reduces annual fishing license prices for 16 and 17-year-olds to $8, and allows CPW to implement other discounts to try and incentivize younger people to get into outdoor recreation.

As part of the bill CPW outlined a set of goals it wants to achieve by 2025. Some of the goals include growing the number of hunters and anglers in Colorado through investment in education and advocacy programs, improving species distribution and disease prevention efforts, increasing the number of fish stocked in Colorado waters, reducing CPW's dam maintenance and repair backlog and more.

"Through management of state parks and abundant wildlife species, CPW helps to contribute billions in economic horsepower to rural and urban communities," said Broscheid. "These places, our state parks, wildlife and their habitat are a vital part of Colorado's heartbeat. They have shaped our past – they shape our lives today and we must begin to shape our future or it will shape up. We must ask ourselves: how do we want our future to look?"