Details, details

The old adage that the devil is in the details is especially true of Senate Bill 208, which would merge the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the State Parks and Recreation Division.

The bill, which has sailed rapidly through the state Legislature, will merge the two agencies as of July 1. But it gives the 16-member board that would result from the combined Colorado Wildlife Commission and State Parks Board an unspecified amount of time to come up with an implementation plan for the merger.

There’s more than a little cart-before-the-horse in that plan.

SB 208 has passed both houses of the Legislature, but has to go back to the Senate for approval of some relatively minor amendments that were added in the House last week. Since the Senate originally passed the bill with only one dissenting vote, it is not expected to delay it now. And because the idea for the merger came from Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration, there’s no reason to believe he will veto it.

The possibility of saving millions of dollars through the merger of two agencies is nothing to sneer at in the current economy.

Furthermore, the two agencies share a lot in common. For instance, most state parks offer hunting or fishing opportunities that are overseen by the Division of Wildlife. It seems likely there would be many opportunities to share personnel and equipment.

But sportsmen have understandable worries that money from the self-supported Division of Wildlife will be used to help shore up State Parks, which depends on money from the general fund to supplement revenue it raises through park visitation fees.

Supporters of SB 208 say that won’t happen — that transparent financing practices will allow the public to be sure that money raised from hunting and fishing licenses will continue to be used for wildlife management. But the details of how financing is structured will be critical.

It will be up to the 16-member board to hammer out those details in the implementation plan. And it will be up to Colorado citizens to ensure they meet the transparency and separation promised.


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