Hunting and fishing fee increase proposed to raise revenue for Colorado Parks and Wildlife | CraigDailyPress.com

Hunting and fishing fee increase proposed to raise revenue for Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Craig Press staff report

A proposed fee increase would raise the cost of a resident elk permit from $45 to $53.

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 hopes to expand access, grow the number of hunters and anglers in the state, increase and improve populations of fish and game and identify a new state park by 2025. The organization also wants to maintain infrastructure and recruit and retain qualified employees.

To achieve these goals, 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.

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.

"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 in a news release. "All Coloradans benefit from healthy parks and abundant wildlife — they bring us a sense of place and purpose."

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. Resident hunting and fishing license prices are set in statute and have not changed since 2005.  Since then, 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, according to a CPW news release.

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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.

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. State Sens. Don Coram (R-Montrose) and Stephen Fenberg (D-Boulder) and state Reps. Jim Wilson (R-Salida) and Jeni Arndt (D-Fort Collins) sponsored the bill.

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.