Our view: Bipartisan help for parks and wildlife | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Bipartisan help for parks and wildlife

At issue: Valuing the quality of life that our state parks and abundant wildlife brings to Coloradans and visitors

Our view: Colorado Parks and Wildlife was long overdue for an increase in funding

We were encouraged by the news April 24 that the state legislature had, in an overwhelmingly bi-partisan vote, passed a funding bill for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The new bill, known as the Hunting, Fishing and Parks for Future Generations Act, awaits the signature of Gov. John Hickenlooper.

It has been 13 years since the self-funded agency has been able to raise the hunting and fishing license fees that are its primary source of revenue. That implies 13 years without any adjustments for inflation.

It was in 2011 that the governor urged the passage of a bill that merged the fortunes of the former Colorado Division of Wildlife and Colorado Parks with the intention of saving $3 to 4 million per year through economies of scale.

The passage of the 2018 bill by a 45-17 margin in the House and 35-0 in the Senate this spring, marks a new era in the brief history of the conjoined state agencies that have struggled financially. A similar 2017 bill flew through the House with bipartisan support but died an improbable death after it was rejected on a 3-2 party line vote in the Senate finance committee.

What made that failure so disappointing is that Colorado Parks and Wildlife is not funded by the state’s general fund but relies primarily on the license fees it collects from hunters, anglers and state park entrance and camping fees.

The Future Generations Act, should it become law, would increase the cost of hunting and fishing licenses for the first time in a decade. The cost of a one-day resident fishing would increase by $4 to $13, and an annual license would increase by $8 to $34. Most multi-day resident hunting licenses would increase by $8.

An elk tag for example would increase from $45 to $53. The fees support wildlife habitat work by the department.

Remember, these are the first price increases in 13 years.

Without the price increase for licenses included in the bill, CPW anticipated budget shortfalls of $30 million annually for wildlife and $11 million annually for parks by 2025.

The new law would also allow Parks and Wildlife to adjust future fees based on the Consumer Price Index, helping to ensure that the agency doesn’t fall so far behind in the future.

Northwest Colorado is home to some of the most popular state parks on Colorado’s Western Slope. And elk hunters are lured here by one of the biggest herds to be found. The state wildlife areas that dot the map increase the opportunities for anglers and hunters.

But there is much more to Colorado Parks and Wildlife than hunting and fishing.

In the grand scheme, it’s the work done by Parks and Wildlife wildlife biologists in conserving habitats that support the many non-game species that are integral to the Rocky Mountain landscape that’s at the core of the agency.

We look forward to reporting that the governor has signed off on a better financial future for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

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