On April 4, Colorado Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chairs Representative Jeni Arndt and Representative Jim Wilson introduced House Bill 17-1321, bipartisan legislation designed to ensure the financial sustainability of Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and support a wide variety of programs important to hunters, anglers, boaters and the state’s fish and wildlife populations.
According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the agency’s finances have suffered in recent years partly due to the rising cost of doing business since the legislature last adjusted resident hunting and fishing license fees more than a decade ago. Unfortunately, the agency’s efforts to address budgetary shortfalls have limited the ability to continue certain discretionary programs supported by sportsmen and women:
“Resident hunting and fishing license fees were last set by the legislature in 2005, and inflation has reduced CPW’s spending power by 22% since that time. This has resulted in CPW defunding 50 positions, cutting $40 million from its budget, and deferring tens of millions of dollars in maintenance on CPW’s 110 dams. Popular programs such as Fishing Is Fun, the Big Game Access Program, and grants for wetlands, boating and habitat protection have also been reduced or eliminated.”
Throughout the 2017 session, the Colorado Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus has hosted monthly meetings to discuss CPW’s financial status and hear the hunting and angling conservation community’s thoughts on potential solutions. These forums took place on the heels of 18 public financial sustainability meetings hosted by CPW throughout the state during the second half of 2016.
“Sportsmen and women have a long history of stepping up to fund conservation when it matters most,” said Rep. Wilson upon introducing HB 17-1321. “This bill puts CPW on a responsible path to ensure that future generations of hunters and anglers will have an opportunity to continue this proud tradition.”
“Making sure we have a stable state fish and wildlife agency is critical to protecting the Colorado way of life,” added Rep. Arndt. “With this bill, CPW will once again be able prioritize user-fee funded programs like Fishing Is Fun or the Big Game Access Program that help introduce new people to the outdoors.”
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?