State parks, wildlife agencies to merge July 1
DENVER — Legislation will be introduced soon to combine the state wildlife and parks agencies as part of efforts to save money in the face of budget shortfalls, state officials said Thursday.
Gov. John Hickenlooper told the parks board and the Colorado Wildlife Commission Thursday that the two boards would also be merged in a move first announced earlier this week and aimed at saving millions of dollars annually. The two agencies in the Department of Natural Resources would become one July 1.
“This will be a challenge for us,” Hickenlooper said in a joint meeting of the two boards. “What will make this successful is people’s willingness to work together as we strive for effectiveness and ways to be more efficient.”
Hickenlooper has said the state could save $3 million to $4 million a year by combining the boards and the 900 jobs. About 25 positions would be eliminated over the next two years, but Hickenlooper said employees could be used to help the department find other ways to save money.
Teams of employees from the wildlife and parks divisions will be asked to help shape the new organization. State officials said several other Western states, including Montana and South Dakota, have combined their parks and wildlife agencies.
The two agencies already have overlaps, state officials said. Colorado has 39 state parks that offer fishing while 32 offer hunting opportunities, said Mike King, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources.