Colorado Parks and Wildlife looks to raise hunting, fishing fees

Hunters and anglers are divided about a proposal by Colorado Parks and Wildlife to increase hunting and fishing fees for the coming calendar year.

Sportsmen from around the region had a chance to enter the discussion with members of CPW during a presentation held at the Colorado Mesa University campus last week. The presentation painted a grim financial picture for CPW in the coming years, with officials saying programs and full-time employees will be lost statewide if more revenue isn’t generated in the immediate future.

“We might end up having a conversation with you all again asking, ‘What do you not want to lose?’ ” said Jody Kennedy, a public involvement planning specialist with CPW. “We would rather not have that conversation.”

Around 30 people attended the meeting along with CPW officials.

The fee increase would be the first for CPW since 2006, when fees for annual hunting and fishing licenses increased to their current level. In the CPW’s 2016 Colorado Big Game Guide, an annual fishing license for adult Colorado residents costs $25. Deer and Pronghorn are $34, bear is $44, and annual adult license are $49 for elk. Youth licenses for deer, elk and pronghorn don’t exceed $13.75. Senior citizens pay $1 for an annual fishing license.

The CPW is proposing a fee increase that would increase the cost of a regular fishing license to $50 and adjust the cost of hunting licenses for the rate of inflation. According to a flier distributed at the meeting, the proposed cost of an elk license would be $88. All fee increases must first be approved through the Colorado Legislature before they are finalized by the governor’s signature.

Many in the CPW agree a rate hike — even a small one — is needed to sustain the staff and facilities currently in place. Many are also skeptical about the legislature’s willingness to hear about the CPW’s needs, which is why members of the organization are presenting their case to hunters and anglers around that state. They feel a vote of confidence from the public might help expedite the process of raising fees. Unlike other state agencies, CPW does not receive general fund revenue.

“When it comes to highways and prisons, the legislature will make that a priority,” said Ron Velarde, northwest regional manager for CPW. “When it comes to wildlife, we’re last.”

Kennedy, along with CPW policy and planning analyst Julie Stahli, gave a slide show presentation that displayed increased costs of items like fish food and tractors, showing how the price of some of the items had risen by as much as 344 percent while hunting and fishing fees had remained the same over the past decade.

The presentation also said 62 percent of the revenue generated by the CPW comes from hunting and fishing license fees, but the current fee structure would leave CPW with a $25 million budget shortfall.

Joe Lewandowski, a CPW public information specialist out of Durango, said the fee increase for in-state hunting and fishing licenses would mirror the price structure of license fees for out-of-state sportsmen, which rises annually to account for inflation. Those are also much more expensive — a non-resident bull elk and fishing combination license runs $629 annually — and makes up 58 percent of the CPW’s annual license revenue, according to the presentation.

The presentation stated that not increasing fees could result in the closure of fish hatcheries, conserving less wildlife habitat and reducing access to some state lands.

Some longtime sportsmen at the meeting were skeptical of the proposed fee increases, with some voicing their displeasure while feeling targeted unnecessarily.

“We’re paying the lion’s share of the fees that go into this thing,” Bob Visek of Grand Junction said, adding that it’s “not fair” that hunters and anglers pay fees and are now being asked to pay more while others who use land, such as campers and hikers, are “getting it for free.”

Others put the proposed fee increase in perspective, like Denny Behrens, chairman of the Colorado Mule Deer Association.

“We’re ready to support a fee increase,” he said. “If you take that $88 and divide it up into a nine-day hunt, you’re talking about paying $9.78 a day. Damn it, that’s cheap. That’s dirt cheap, especially when you put in perspective that there’s people out there who play golf for $80 a day.”

Members of the CPW are making stops around Colorado to make their presentation to local communities.

More information about possible changes can be found at cpw.state.co.us/fundingthefuture.


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