Bill to address Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s financial sustainability passes committee unanimously
DENVER — Responding to testimony from hunters, anglers, state park visitors and volunteers about the need to provide a long-term funding solution for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Senate Finance Committee unanimously passed, 5-0, the Hunting, Fishing, and Parks for Future Generations Act (Senate Bill 18-143) late Tuesday.
Lawmakers credited CPW leadership for conducting exhaustive statewide public outreach and using the feedback to resubmit an improved proposal that lays out specific ways money generated by modest fee increases would be used, such as fixing deteriorating dams, recruiting new hunters, expanding conservation efforts and looking for ways to increase outdoor recreation opportunities for all Coloradans.
“With the public’s input in mind, we were able to submit a straightforward bill that is more specific about how a modest fee increase would be used,” said CPW Director Bob Broscheid. “This increase would help us address the need to repair deteriorating dams, expand our critical conservation efforts and do more to increase outdoor recreation opportunities for all Coloradans, including those that visit our great state specifically to enjoy its natural resources.”
The unanimous vote came after testimony from outdoor enthusiasts in support of the proposal. One by one, supporters encouraged lawmakers to give CPW the authority it needs to adjust the cost of hunting and fishing licenses to reflect inflation and the overall cost of goods and services, including utilities and maintenance.
Several speakers noted CPW faces a financial crisis if the funding issue isn’t addressed. They noted that CPW has cut or defunded 50 positions and reduced $40 million from its wildlife budget since 2009. They pointed out that resident hunting and fishing license fees have not increased since the legislature last took action in 2005, even as inflation has increased prices almost 30 percent in that period, reducing CPW’s spending power.
Others told lawmakers that park entrance fees have not increased since 2010. By 2025, CPW forecasts budget shortfalls of $30 million annually for wildlife and $11 million annually for parks.
As they voted, the three Republicans and two Democrats on the committee commended the efforts that have gone into the bill, the broad support for the legislation and forwarded the bill to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.
CPW is the state’s lead agency for providing recreational venues for residents and tourists as well as a national and international leader in conservation management and research. Many people don’t realize it, but behind the scenes of the well-kept trails in state parks, amazing glimpses of wildlife at festivals and across the landscape, and plentiful fish in lakes, CPW staff work diligently to manage 960 species of wildlife, 41 state parks and numerous conservation and education programs. These resources define Colorado and provide for Coloradans in many ways.
More stable funding would ensure the continued availability of recreational opportunities that contribute $6.1 billion annually to Colorado’s economy. The health of the outdoor recreation sector is not only vital to the overall strength of the economy, these resources are vitally important to the people.
For 120 years Colorado’s citizens have asked CPW to conserve the land and wildlife that makes Colorado, Colorado. “We are committed to something much greater than ourselves, and we are reminded that we all have a responsibility to make sure that future generations have access to the quality hunting, fishing and park recreational opportunities that we enjoy today,” Broscheid said.
The agency is seeking approval to adjust fees to cover the rising costs associated with managing wildlife, protecting habitat and maintaining and improving state parks to meet the needs of a booming population. With this new funding, CPW commits to pursuing the following goals and objectives by 2025:
Grow the number of hunters and anglers in Colorado through investments in programs such as hunter education, Fishing is Fun, and the Cameo Shooting and Education Complex, and grants for shooting ranges in all regions of the state.
Expand access for hunters, anglers and outdoor recreationists by renewing existing high-priority leases and supporting additional public access programs on public and private lands.
Increase and improve big game populations through investments in habitat and conservation, including building more highway wildlife crossings to protect wildlife and motorists.
Partner with private landowners to improve wildlife health and sustainability, and ensure landscape connectivity to benefit agricultural production and habitat for all.
Increase the number of fish stocked in Colorado waters through hatchery modernization and renovations.
Identify and begin planning the development of Colorado’s next state park.
Reduce risks to life and property and sustain water-based recreation opportunities by reducing CPW’s dam maintenance and repair backlog by 50 percent.
Partner with outdoor recreationists, such as hikers, bikers, and wildlife watchers, to develop strategies for funding the maintenance of state lands and facilities and the management of wildlife.
Recruit and retain qualified employees to manage wildlife, park, recreational and aquatic resources.
Provide quality infrastructure at CPW properties by completing much needed construction and maintenance.
CPW relies on user fees, not general tax dollars, to fund its work. Hunting and fishing licenses, park entrance fees and OHV, boat and snowmobile registration fees are the primary source of funding for the agency. CPW has worked hard to ensure that any fee increases are minimal, but that they will help in accomplishing the much-needed maintenance and goals set forth by agency leadership. To achieve this, the bill limits increases to most multi-day resident hunting licenses to $8. For example, an elk tag would increase from $45 to $53. The bill also limits any annual increase to daily park entrance fees to $1 and $10 for an annual pass.
“We are building on an amazing legacy that was handed to us with the intention that these resources are left in the same or better shape and that they outlive each of us,” said John Howard, Chairman of the Parks and Wildlife Commission. “Should this legislation pass, we will ensure that the agency will be accountable to the people of Colorado and the legislature by providing annual reports on the spending and progress toward achieving the 10 goals outlined within the bill.”
For more information on the Hunting, Fishing and Parks for Future Generations Act visit: http://cpw.state.co.us/Future-Generations-Act
CPW is an enterprise agency, relying primarily on license sales, state parks fees and registration fees to support its operations, including: 41 state parks and more than 350 wildlife areas covering approximately 900,000 acres, management of fishing and hunting, wildlife watching, camping, motorized and non-motorized trails, boating and outdoor education. CPW’s work contributes approximately $6 billion in total economic impact annually throughout Colorado.