Local anglers may be losers in budget shortfall
~ by Bob Volpe ~
Colorado House Bill 1321 now making its way through the legislature will give more power to Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to raise hunting and fishing license fees and other fees to make up for shortfalls in revenue.
While the bill itself doesn’t increase fees, it does give the CPW Commission the authority to do so as it pleases, at least to a point. The bill also gives the CPW the power to adjust future fees according to a consumer price index.
Current law states that only the legislature can approve licensing and other fee hikes for the CPW. The bill would allow CPW Commission to raise hunting and fishing fees by as much as 50 percent, as well as raise the fines for violations of current CPW regulations.
After slicing $40 million since 2009, including $10 million in 2015, wildlife management in Colorado is at a crossroads. To offset the budget cuts, wildlife managers have tweaked refund policies and license prices, upped the number of hunting and fishing licenses sold and raised the pay-to-play fees that hunters pay for a better shot at coveted permits.
But with rising costs for gas, fish food and water, on top of fewer people buying licenses, the division estimates its budget would be short $15 million to $20 million by 2023. If hunters and anglers wanted to see the self-funded agency continue improving access and habitat, that shortfall could climb to $36 million.
Lauren Truitt, media contact for the CPW said, “The funding shortfall is having significant impacts on the agency and our ability to fulfill our mission to Colorado, This is something we were able to do to address and do all the things Coloradans were asking us to do at the level they were expecting from us.”
The major concern of CPW is addressing tens of millions of dollars of backlogged maintenance and repair on the more than 100 dams the agency owns and operates, according to Truitt. Other issues CPW wants to tackle with the increased revenue include: Support public access for hunting and fishing in Colorado. Increase efforts to improve wildlife habitat. Renovate hatcheries in order to continue stocking reservoirs and streams. Continue inspection programs to keep Aquatic Nuisance Species out of Colorado’s waters. Maintain and improve park facilities including trails, campgrounds and visitor centers. Improve outdoor recreation educational programs to get more Coloradans outside. Increase youth and adult hunter and angler
What Are Our Neighbors To The North And South Paying?
A comparison of fees for basic hunting and fishing licenses with New Mexico, and Wyoming indicate fees in Colorado are competitive in some fees, higher in some, and low in others.
A basic deer hunting license in Wyoming is $38 for residents, $312 for non-residents. A New Mexico deer license is $41 for a resident and $283 for a non-resident. In Colorado a deer license is $34 for a resident and $389 for non-residents.
Bull Elk licenses in Wyoming are, $52 for a resident and $577 for non-residents. A Bull Elk license in New Mexico is $90 for residents and $548 for a non-resident. In Colorado the same license is, $49 for residents and $644 for non-residents.
An annual fishing license in Wyoming is, $24 for residents and $92 for non-residents. In New Mexico it’s $25 for residents and $56 for non-residents. Colorado annual fishing license fees are $26 for residents and $56 for non-residents.
Who Will Be Affected?
What HB1321 does is establish caps on the increases, and includes a new fee on all boats over 10 feet in length whether they are motorized or not. This would include some canoes and kayaks.
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.
The annual in-state fishing license would go 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 $34 to $45, while elk hunters could pay $67.50 instead of $49.
More specialized big-game hunting for moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goats could go from $250 to $375.
Resident hunting and fishing license fees have not increased since 2005. Park entrance fees have not increased since 2010. The bill, which has bipartisan sponsors in Reps. Jenni Arndt, D-Fort Collins, and Jim Wilson, R-Salida, was passed by the House Finance Committee and is headed to the House Appropriations Committee.
Local reaction to the proposal has been overwhelmingly positive, based on letters submitted to the media that support the fee hikes.
Matt Thomas, professional fly fishing guide with South Platte Fly Shop, had this to say, “I think raising out of state fees is especially outstanding. I know for a fact that I pay $100 for an out of state fishing license for a Montana and $100 for Wyoming out of state, and $120 for a California out of state. We’re charging $56 for a non-resident annual pass here. I think out of state annual licenses should definitely go up in Colorado.”