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It has been almost 10 years ago that Governor Hickenlooper (with the blessings of key state legislators) merged two separate state divisions into a single division. The division of parks and outdoor recreation, that was not generating sufficient funds for its programs and the division of wildlife that was paying its own way through fishing and hunting fees became the new division of parks and wildlife. The anglers and hunters sat by quietly while the “non-fishing and hunting” fraternity applauded the move; knowing the end result would be a solution to their budget problems, with wildlife division monies supporting their program costs.
Time has passed and the merger has resulted in funding deficiencies in both parks and wildlife budgets. Thanks to four legislators, Republicans Senator Don Coram (Montrose) and Representative Jim Wilson (Salida), and Democratic Senator Stephen Fenberg (Boulder) and Representative Jeni Arndt (Ft. Collins) an attempt is underway to find a funding solution for the Parks and Wildlife Division programs. These legislators introduced Senate Bill 18-143 the “Hunting, Fishing and Parks for Future Generations Act.”
The proposed legislation covers a variety of initiatives both by the legislature and the parks and wildlife agency. Fees and charges have not increased since 2005 driving support for user fees and licenses increases.
High on the list of is the need to increase fish stocking, wild game habitat and accommodate Colorado’s growing interest in fishing, hunting and other outdoors activities. Other key elements of the legislation include attracting more anglers and hunters by expanding hunter education, fishing is fun and grants for more shooting ranges and the Cameo shooting and education complex; expanding public access leases for hunting and fishing; focusing on increasing and conserving big game populations and construct needed statewide highway game crossings, in addition to the critical preservation of habitat; make greater strides in modernizing fish hatcheries to increase numbers of stocked fish; identify new state parks; and recruit and take advantage of skilled and committed outdoor professionals in managing land and wildlife resources.
The legislature will be asked to support current parks and wildlife budget needs through hunting and fishing license and park entrance fee increases. At the same time the Parks and Wildlife Commission will adjust and discount fees for youth to introduce a new generation of hunters and anglers.Wildlife programs have struggled with budgets since the merger: Defunding 50 positions and reduce $40 million from the wildlife budget since 2009. Parks and wildlife director Bob Broscheid summed it up this way: “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.”
As the hunting season comes to a close, it is a good time for hunters and anglers to become familiar with these issues and talk with legislators in support of the “Hunting, Fishing and Parks for Future Generations Act.”
More information can be found on the CPW website at Cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/Pages/Future-Generations-Act.aspx
Ron Hellbusch can be reached at Ron-Hellbusch@comcast.net.
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