Contact: Ellary TuckerWilliams, Rocky Mountain States Senior Coordinator, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation
Why it Matters: It should come as no surprise that wildlife management and conservation cost money. However, many fail to realize the origin of those funds. Specific to Colorado, 75% of the state’s wildlife budget is comprised of sportsmen and women generated dollars. When ballot box biology expands the purview of Colorado Parks and Wildlife without identifying a funding source, it jeopardizes existing conservation programs and priorities funded by sportsmen and women. HB 1243 is an excellent example of the legislature listening to their constituents and rectifying this concern by ensuring the cost of the wolf introduction is shared equitably between all Coloradans, not just the outdoor sporting community.
Colorado made national headlines in November of 2020 when Proposition 114 – Introduction of Wolves – passed with 50.91% of the votes while counties voting to pass the measure represent roughly 10% of the state’s total acreage. Essentially, the passage of Proposition 114 expanded the purview of Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to include the introduction of wolves onto the Western Slope by the year 2024 and continued species management. However, Proposition 114 did not identify any specific funding to support the initiative, making sportsmen and women very nervous about impacts to existing CPW programs.
Originally, Colorado Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair’s Rep. Jeni Arndt and Rep. Perry Will introduced House Bill 1040 (HB 1040) which would have required that funding for the implementation and future management of gray wolves to come exclusively from General Fund revenue. After further discussion, friendly amendments were made to HB 1040 to increase flexibility of funding sources while maintaining the integrity of its original intent. However, due to a technicality, HB 1040 was postponed indefinitely in committee and HB 1243 was introduced in its place.
With Rep. Arndt and Rep. Will once again leading the charge, HB 1243 follows the same legislative intent as HB 1040, but allows funding for the implementation of Proposition 114 to come from several sources while specifically disallowing the use of hunting and fishing license fees. According to HB 1243’s fiscal note, initial costs to implement the program are anticipated to cost roughly $1 million plus three full-time employees for the first two fiscal years alone, highlighting the need to funding sources outside of sportsmen and women. With widespread support, HB 1243 has progressed through the legislative process and now sits on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted a letter of support for HB 1243 to every committee during its journey to the Governor’s desk. CSF applauds the bill sponsors for taking the initiative to ensure the cost of the gray wolf introduction is shared equitably among all Colorado residents and not just sportsmen and women. If voters are going to expand CPW’s mission and responsibilities through public policy, it should not be to the detriment of existing conservation programs which are mostly paid for by hunters and anglers.
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?