OUT: Out-of-state hunters will pay more in 2009

Nonresident big-game hunters will pay more for a license next year after the Colorado Wildlife Commission Thursday adopted higher prices for out-of-state big-game fees.

Nonresident hunting-license prices are tied to a 2008 Consumer Price Index, which this year jumped 3.7 percent from last year’s level. Bull elk licenses will rise from $525 to $545, all deer licenses go from $315 to $325 and pronghorn tags increase to $325 from $315.

Other nonresident price increases include moose, mountain goat and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep to $1,825 from $1,760. Nonresident hunters are not able to purchase a desert bighorn sheep hunting license.

Nonresident licenses for bear, mountain lion and cow elk will be $250.

The Division of Wildlife gets more than half ($53.8 million) of its $95 million budget from the sale of deer and elk licenses. Nonresident elk and deer hunters contribute $45.5 million of the $53.8 million.

While this year’s numbers haven’t yet been compiled, anecdotal reports from wildlife officers around the Western Slope indicate a slump in big-game hunter numbers.

While there might be several mitigating factors, certainly chief among them must be the cost of gas before recent price declines and a general malaise throughout the nation’s economy.

Division of Wildlife Director Tom Remington spoke frankly to the commission after it adopted the nonresident price increases, cautioning the commission that the future holds some tough choices for the Division.

“As we get closer to our desired elk population objective, the number of elk licenses available will dwindle,” Remington told the commission and the audience at the DoubleTree Hotel in Colorado Springs.

“We knew that would happen, especially in the northwest.”

Although there still are more elk in the state than the DOW considers either socially or biologically desirable, the agency in this decade has made inroads in reducing elk numbers.

A recent estimate said elk numbers have dropped by about 20,000 animals since 2000. There are an estimated 292,000 elk in the state while the population objective is between 202,000 and 234,000.

Much of the reduction came through increased availability of licenses for cow elk, something that will end, said Remington, as elk herds get closer to objectives.

Fewer licenses mean less revenue for the DOW.

“We’ve been living off the largess of our elk herds for some time,” Remington said. “As we come closer to our objectives, we are going to be seeing substantially fewer elk licenses, which means fewer bull licenses and we may or may not, depending on the decisions about the next (five-year) season structure, have over-the-counter licenses.”

Remington said the fiscal impact from fewer licenses may be $10 to $20 million per year.

“One way to make up for that is to increase the cost of licenses to at least make accommodation for inflation,” Remington said. “At some point down the road we will have to revise our (license) price structure or cut back on other programs.”

The commission also was made aware of a proposal to offer a limited bull moose hunting season on Grand Mesa. The DOW Northwest Region office is revising the moose management plan for Grand Mesa and the Crystal River. Any decision on the moose hunt will be made at a later commission meeting.

Copies of the moose draft management plan is available on the DOW Web site, wildlife.state.co.us.

Click on Hunting, then Big Game, then DAU Management Plans.

Comments should be sent via e-mail no later than Dec. 15.

Interested citizens have an opportunity to talk about these and other wildlife issues Tuesday at a meeting of the Northwest Region Sportsmen’s Advisory Group. The meeting runs from 6-8 p.m. at the DOW Northwest Region Hunter Education Building, 711 Independent Ave.

“We don’t head into these meetings with a set agenda,” said Ron Velarde, DOW Northwest Regional
Manager. “The goal is to let the public bring topics to us. We want to hear their concerns, comments and questions.”


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