DENVER – A bipartisan team of Colorado lawmakers introduced the Hunting, Fishing, and Parks for Future Generations Act (Senate Bill 18-143) on Monday, Jan. 29 in an effort to bring a long-term funding solution to Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). The bill is sponsored by two Republicans -- Sen. Don Coram of Montrose and Rep. Jim Wilson of Salida, and two Democrats -- Sen. Stephen Fenberg of Boulder and Rep. Jeni Arndt of Fort Collins. Introduction of the bill follows roughly three-years of public meetings with legislators and outdoor enthusiasts to gather feedback on the agency’s financial challenges and the future of Colorado’s outdoor recreation opportunities, state parks and wildlife.
CPW receives less than 1 percent of its annual budget from general fund tax revenue. The agency is supported primarily by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, state park passes and camping fees. However, resident hunting and fishing license prices are set in statute and have not changed since 2005. Since that time, inflation has increased almost 30 percent, reducing CPW’s ability to meet the needs and expectations of Coloradans. State Park entrance fees also have not changed since 2010.
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:
To achieve these objectives, the bill adjusts fees for hunting and fishing licenses and parks passes, including increasing most multi-day and annual resident hunting and fishing license prices by $8. For example, the cost of an annual fishing license will increase from $26 to $33 and the cost of an elk tag will increase from $45 to $53. In addition, the bill reduces annual fishing license prices for 16 and 17-year-olds to $8, and allows the Parks and Wildlife Commission to implement other license discounts to introduce a new generation of hunters and anglers to the outdoors.
The bill also allows CPW to raise state park entrance fees but caps any proposed increases at $1 in any year for a daily pass and $10 in any year for an annual pass. Finally, the bill ensures accountability by requiring annual reporting of program expenditures made with increased fees and the impact of those expenditures on the achieving CPW’s 2025 goals and objectives.
CPW has cut or defunded 50 positions and reduced $40 million from its wildlife budget since 2009 to address funding shortfalls. Some of the cuts include elimination of the Big Game Access Program, cuts to Aquatic Nuisance Species funding, diminished investment in capital improvement projects, and reductions in grants for Fishing is Fun, wetlands, boating and habitat protection, as well as deferred maintenance on its 110 dams.
“Recreation needs conservation, otherwise we have no place to play, and conservation needs recreation. Our wild spaces, our wildlife and natural resources need people to care enough to invest in them for the long term,” said CPW Director Bob Broscheid. “All Coloradans benefit from healthy parks and abundant wildlife - they bring us a sense of place and purpose.”
Pressure continues to mount on our natural resources as more people visit and move to Colorado for our quality of life and outdoor recreation areas. CPW is the state’s leading agency for providing recreational venues for residents and tourists; and the agency is a national and international leader in conservation management and research.
"Through management of state parks and abundant wildlife species, CPW helps to contribute billions in economic horsepower to rural and urban communities," Broscheid said. “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 us. We must ask ourselves: How do we want our future to look?”
For more information on the Future Generations Bill please visit the CPW website at: http://cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/Pages/Future-Generations-Act.aspx