Exclusively online: J.B. Chapman's speech on Hunting In Tourism

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Thank you and thank you folks for allowing me the opportunity to take some time this afternoon to share with you the importance of hunting in the tourism picture for this beautiful state we live in.

My name is J.B. Chapman, and I am a fourth generation native of Craig and Moffat County, who is also a fourth generation businessman, landowner, sportsman and community-minded dad.

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Gov. Ritter, it is great seeing you here in Craig again for this event, and I hope you know that you're welcome here and have our commitment as a community in directing all of the activities that go on in Denver.

All you need to do is give us a call and let us know how we can help, and we'll be happy to give you all of the advice you need. All joking aside, thank you for taking the time to come over to the Northwest corner and for working together with us to promote the things that are important to our way of life.

I know that there are many other dignitaries and folks that make a difference here today that I haven't had the opportunity to meet yet. And before the day's over I hope that we get the chance to talk.

Hunting is Tourism, or HIT as our acronym would have it, is a new focus by a group of folks who share a growing understanding of the importance to the stated economy, that hunting tourism provides. Over two million people fish, hunt, or watch wildlife each year in Colorado, generating over $2 billion annually for the state and creates over 20,000 full-time jobs on the Western Slope alone.

These activities rank second in money generated by activities in the state, trailing slightly behind the ski industry. According to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Northwest DOW personnel manage 30 percent of all deer and elk in the state.

Each year, 27,000 to 30,000 hunters visit Moffat County to hunt big game species of wildlife.

As a Colorado business owner, I'm concerned about Colorado's economic future. I make an earnest attempt to keep up with the happenings that may have a positive or negative effect on the lives of the people who rely on me and the financial decisions I make.

In regards to hunting big game in Colorado, I am very concerned about the economic impact that putting further restrictions on non-resident hunters will have on the lives of the households that are provided for by the income from my businesses.

Non-resident hunters are tourists. Not only do they hunt, but they bring their families to ski, ride the rapids, fish and tour our great state. These tourists fly into our airports, rent cars, buy fuel, eat meals at our restaurants, stay in our hotels and the list goes on.

Studies show that the non-resident sportsman spends an average of $350 per day, compared to the average resident sportsman who spends $30 per day while visiting our communities. It also should be noted that over 50 percent of the land in Colorado is federally owned.

The last time I checked; that means the natural resources we -- the property of the citizens of the United States of America, to be managed locally. We must remember that when management policies are made.

Further restricting the non-resident hunters wanting to spend their time and money enjoying our natural resources would be like placing further restrictions on the non- resident skiers, golfers and people wanting to use our state highways to enjoy those recreational opportunities.

Competition for tourism dollars is high; if people don't feel valued by Colorado they may stop coming. Not just hunting, but other activities may suffer if we further restrict participation of non-resident hunters. There's a group of resident sportsmen who are trying to do just that.

In 2005, they threatened to seek legislation to restrict non-resident hunting licenses to just 20 percent. Our city and county governments, local chambers of commerce, the economic development coordinator and many local businesses helped us present many facts and figures to the Wildlife Commission.

As a result, the license restrictions were not as severe as the special interest groups aimed to achieve. For this we thank you. Those same resident sportsmen are gearing up to repeat their efforts.

This time, they're seeking support for a ballot initiative to restrict non-resident hunting licenses to just 10 percent. The group is attempting to convince would-be supporters that they just want what states like Arizona, Nevada and others have regarding non-resident hunter percentage quotas.

But ladies and gentleman, they are overlooking one key fact when they share this information. The State of Colorado harvests more elk every year, just to maintain our herds, than the previously named states' entire elk population. So this comparison is really a non-issue.

They've also stated that the loss of revenue to the state is not their concern, but that their goal is to keep licenses available for residents. Some studies show that for every 1,000 non-resident hunters we lose, the impact to the state is $1.8 million. Add the license fee revenue the Division of Wildlife loses, and the loss grows to $2.3 million.

By the current statistics provided by the DOW for the 2006 Big Game Hunting season, if the non-resident hunters were restricted to 10 percent of the total tags available (a loss of approximately 86,000 non-resident hunters per year), and by using the above cost figures it would further restrict the states income by $115.3 million, and the Division of Wildlife would take a additional $43 million hit. That's a bad financial decision.

The Colorado Economic Futures Panel established by the University of Denver reported that the way we think about and then act upon issues relating to Colorado's fiscal viability and economic future is important.

The panel found that focusing on these issues through legislation has the effect of producing piecemeal policies that are fraught with the potential for unanticipated outcomes.

Another of the panel's concern was related to the process of repeatedly amending the constitution through public referenda.

"The use of this tool has effectively removed, from the hands of duly elected officials, the ability to make the most important decisions affecting our state. It has allowed special interests the opportunity to shape public policy to their own ends, all in the name of citizen participation and has crippled the state's ability to make timely decisions in the face of economic circumstances, institutional needs or increasing economic competition from other states."

Ladies and gentlemen, with some groups truth is a minor inconvenience when it comes to selling their viewpoint to the uneducated, uninformed or anti-hunting groups.

While talking to the generations that preceded me on our family ranch, I can truly see how hunting has played and continues to play an important role in the establishment and continued lifestyle of our Western Heritage. I believe we need to continue to educate the public about how important hunting is to Colorado's economy. Gov. Ritter, do you remember what I said earlier about that advice we would be happy to give you?

Well, I don't want to drag this out or put you on the spot, but what an opportune time to choose a new director for the DOW who was a "Team builder" inside and outside the agency. I have faith you'll make the best choice for all of us. And in closing today from the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, "It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself." Thanks again for your time.

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