A few more bucks

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For the first time since 1992, Colorado hunters could pay more than $30 for a bull elk tag.

The state House of Representatives has approved a law that would increase resident hunting and fishing licenses by about 40 percent. The bill moves to the state Senate Agriculture Committee for consideration.

The bill would also require anyone who hunts, fishes or uses a state wildlife area for any recreational purpose to buy a $10 stamp.

If a moderate increase is approved, Craig Sports owner Dave Hutton said he doesn't expect it will discourage local hunters from buying licenses.

"The biggest concern for most of the in-state hunters is if they increase the fees, they want their money to go back to the wildlife and habitat," Hutton said.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife is supporting the legislation. DOW representatives say inflation has grown by 45 percent since the last time hunting license fees increased.

Four regional and one statewide sportsmen advisory groups drafted the new fee schedule. Craig resident Allan Reishus served on one of those groups.

Reishus, too, hoped that the fee increase would be used to benefit wildlife and habitat.

According to DOW press releases, that's the purpose of the Colorado Wildlife Habitat Stamp. The stamp's $10 price will be used to raise money to protect habitat and provide access to fishing and hunting areas.

"Right now, the hunting and fishing public is paying for everyone," DOW spokesman Randy Hampton said.

By requiring state wildlife area users to purchase the stamp, the DOW hopes to spread the burden of funding the areas more evenly.

The stamps will be sold anywhere hunting and fishing licenses are sold.

The bill's last provision will create a 75-cent surcharge on all licenses. The surcharge will fund the Colorado Wildlife Management Public Education Advisory Council, which the state Legislature created in 1998 to educate the urban public about the relationship between hunting and fishing and wildlife management.

"That organization never had the money to carry out its mission," Hampton said.

According to DOW press releases, the agency's funds have been absorbed by chronic wasting disease and whirling disease research, modernize the licensing system, and cover utility, gas and employee health care costs.

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