Fee hike for Colorado hunting, fishing licenses and state parks clears Senate in unanimous vote
Bill includes a push to engage hikers, bikers, wildlife watchers in funding public lands maintenance
Colorado Parks and Wildlife is on track to raise hunting and fishing fees — and the price of park passes — after all 35 state senators on Tuesday approved legislation scripted to avert a looming financial crisis for the division.
“Unanimous approval. Can’t do much better than that,” said Sen. Don Coram, a Montrose Republican who sponsored the bill that would allow Colorado Parks and Wildlife to raise fees to support conservation programs and chip away at a $45 million maintenance backlog on 11 dams owned by the division.
“Think the original bill last year started out with pretty drastic increases and I think we took the opportunity this year to adjust that and say, yes, we need some increases but we will keep them moderate,” Coram said. “I think we did a better job of selling what we were doing.”
Parks and Wildlife last raised fees in 2005 and costs have soared since then. The division counts on hunting and fishing licenses for 60 percent of its roughly $150 million annual budget, none of which comes from the state’s taxpayer-filled general fund. While the cost of dam maintenance, fish food at 19 hatcheries, water leases and wildlife management have climbed and pressures on land and wildlife have grown with the increased population, the revenue the division takes in has remained stagnant. Since 2009, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has slashed $40 million from its budget and cut 50 jobs. The agency estimates a $22 million funding shortfall by 2023.
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