Bill to hike hunting, fishing fees advances in House
DENVER — Nearly every license, fee and penalty charged by Colorado Parks and Wildlife could go up by as much as 50 percent under a bill that won approval in a House committee on Monday.
While the bill itself doesn’t increase fees, it does give the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission the authority to do so as it pleases, at least to a point.
The measure, HB1321, establishes caps on the increases, and includes a new fee on all boats over 10 feet in length whether they are motorized or not.
Money from that new boat fee, which would range from $15 to $50, is to be used to fund the agency’s aquatic nuisance species inspection program.
Parks and Wildlife Director Bob Broscheid said the increases are needed because the agency, which is funded solely from severance taxes and user fees, has seen a decline in overall revenues since the last time fees were increased in 2005.
“This is happening across the country, that this user-pay model with the demands of diversity of recreation and the number of users everyone is seeing across the board is going up,” he said. “It’s like you living off your wages of 2005. Your money is not going as far and costs are going up.”
Broscheid said it will be up to the commission to decide which fees will go up, but said they would happen gradually.
Some of those decisions could call for raising the annual in-state fishing license from $25 to $37.50, extra-rod stamp from $5 to $7.50 and eliminating the free senior annual fishing licensing, charging them $18.75 instead.
For hunters, there’s a long list of fee increases. Small game licenses could go from $20 to $30, fall and spring turkey licenses could go to as high as $30, and combined fishing and small-game licenses could increase $20 a year to $60.
Big game hunters also could see substantial increases. Deer hunting could go from $30 to $45, while elk hunters could pay $67.50 instead of $45.
More specialized big-game hunting for moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats could go from $250 to $375.
The new fee on boats is particularly needed to ensure that the agency has the ability to continue its inspection program, in part, because the state’s budget eliminated money for it, agency officials said.
They said now is a bad time to cut that funding, particularly after last Friday’s news that zebra or quagga mussels were discovered on four boats from out of state that were trying to get onto four lakes in the state, including Ridgway State Park and Reservoir.
“The program has completed 3.5 million water craft inspections, 63,000 decontaminations, and has intercepted 122 infected vessels,” said Reid DeWalt, assistant director for wildlife and natural resources for the agency. “All of these vessels would be sitting on Colorado waters if they had not been intercepted.”
The bill, which has bipartisan sponsors in Reps. Jenni Arndt, D-Fort Collins, and Jim Wilson, R-Salida, heads to the House Finance Committee.