Colorado Senate approves fee increase for fishing and hunting licenses and state park entrance fees | SummitDaily.com

Colorado Senate approves fee increase for fishing and hunting licenses and state park entrance fees

Donna Ventura of Los Alamos, New Mexico casts on a portion of the South Platte River just outside of Alma on Sept. 16, 2016. Annual fishing licenses are set to increase in price from $25 to $33 for residents after the Colorado senate unanimously voted to increase fishing and hunting license fees across the board.

The Colorado Senate unanimously voted on Tuesday to raise fishing and license fees, as well as to allow annual raises to state park entrance fees, in order to start fixing a massive funding shortfall for Colorado Park and Wildlife. Should the bill go on to pass the state house and get the governor's signature, the fee increase package would be the first for the agency since 2005.

All 35 senators voted to pass the bill, which had failed in committee last year when it was a larger, more complex package with steeper fees. CPW sought the fee hikes to deal with major funding shortfalls for everything from wildlife conservation to dam maintenance. Income from fees has not kept up with the cost of operation over the years, and the agency does not draw its funds from the taxpayer general fund.

The bill increases residential hunting and fishing license fees by $8, and allows CPW to increase state park entrance fees by $1 for daily park passes and $10 for annual park passes. The bill would also allow for increases to license processing fees.

Individual game license fees will also increase in varying amounts. For example, the price of licenses to hunt bighorn, moose and mountain goat will rise from $250 to $300 for residents and from $1,500 to $2,100 for non-residents. The bill also allows for the CPW to use the Consumer Price Index to raise fees annually instead of relying on funding increases from the Colorado Legislature.

The most significant change to license fees is for annual fishing licenses for seniors, which will go from being free to $8. CPW spokeswoman Lauren Truitt said that the agency received positive feedback for adding the fee for seniors.

"When we did our public outreach, the senior group said they were willing to invest the $8 into the resources they love so much."

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Truitt said that adding the fee allows for the agency to receive more in matching federal dollars from the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration and Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration funds.

"We were missing out on that money through free licenses," Truitt said. "A lot of our constiuents told us that it was important for us to get that money and that it was a reasonable cost for the natural resources they enjoy. To put it in perspective, that $8 fee is equivalent to a couple cups of coffee, or a single cup depending on where you go."

According to a CPW fact sheet, 80 percent of funding for wildlife conservation comes from hunters, anglers and shooter fees. Aside from wildlife conservation, the agency is also the largest owner and operator of dams in the state and has a $45 million maintenance backlog for those structures. Thirty-four of CPW's jurisdictional dams have an average age of 70 years and are considered "high hazard" or "significant hazard" to human life and property if they fail.

"We really need to start updating those dams and making sure they're up to code," Truitt said. "We're really looking over the next 9 to 10 years to start chipping away at the dam maintenance, as well as other operating costs."

Truitt added that without the fee increases, the agency may be forced to reduce the number of licenses the state offers, reduce access to parks and close fish hatcheries that provide anglers with abundant fishing opportunities.

"We obviously all love to play outside and people come from all over the world to experience the amazing resources we have to offer," she said. "With those benefits comes the responsibility for maintaining those resources."