Western Slopers to serve on parks board
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission should try again in asking permission to raise fines and fees, said one of the newest members of that 11-member panel.
Former Grand Junction Mayor Jim Spehar, Colorado Mountain College President Carrie Besnette-Hauser of Glenwood Springs, and Meeker outfitter Marie E. Haskett were named this week to replace outgoing members of the panel.
Spehar said he agrees the commission should try again to get legislative approval to raise fines and fees because Parks and Wildlife has been hard hit by increased costs and less revenue, which comes entirely from severance tax revenue and user fees.
“The cuts have been pretty deep,” Spehar said. “They’ve cut staff, they’ve cut programs. You can’t save your way to success. Much of what was proposed was perfectly logical.”
During this year’s session, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, introduced a bill to give the commission the authority to raise fines and fees by as much as 50 percent at its own discretion.
While an increase that large bothered many state lawmakers, others didn’t like turning that authority over to the board, saying the Colorado Legislature should be setting fees.
As a result, the bill didn’t get out of the Colorado House, where it was introduced. It died on a 37-24 vote, with Democrats and Republicans nearly evenly split against the idea.
Spehar said the new commission should take a different tack on how it approaches the issue with state lawmakers, but said the 50 percent hike ultimately will be needed.
“They should be able to do at least cost recovery on application fees and some increases, but still have a discount on senior fishing licenses, and being able to at least adjust for inflation,” he said. “This isn’t general fund money. This is sportsmen, most of whom are willing to pay these fees.”
Hauser said she didn’t know enough about the fee increase issue to comment, saying she’s still on a learning curve about the division.
She said her reasons for wanting to be on the commission are more aligned with how she can help promote and protect the state’s public lands, and to find new ways to link education into it.
“Everything that the college does, there’s some natural opportunities to have our faculty and students to be engaged ... given all the programs that we do that are outdoor related,” she said.
Haskett was on the back of a horse departing for a hunt with clients and couldn’t comment.
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission is a citizen board appointed by the governor that includes three sportsmen or sportswomen, one of whom must be an outfitter; three agricultural producers; three recreationalists, including one from a nonprofit wildlife organization; and two at-large members. The executive director of the Department of Natural Resources, Bob Randall, and Commissioner of Agriculture Bob Broscheid also serve on the commission as ex-officio members.