Colorado sportsmen and women take note: Serious mischief is afoot with your license fee dollars in the Colorado Legislature.
House Bill 1150 would divert $5 million per year for the next 10 years from the Colorado Division of Wildlife's (DOW) wildlife cash fund to be used by the Colorado Water Conservation Board to help fund water storage projects. This would be done in the name of water projects that ostensibly would "enhance, create or preserve wildlife habitat or contribute to a wildlife restoration project, a fish restoration or management project, or the conservation of wildlife ...," according to the bill.
Well, shucks, might as well toss in a piece of Mom's apple pie and an American flag, just to make us all feel that much better about the plundering of what is intended to be an enterprise fund dedicated to wildlife management by the DOW.
It's bad enough the bill would lop $50 million off the top of the wildlife cash fund, which is funded exclusively through fishing and hunting license fees and taxes paid solely by sportsmen and women. What's worse is that the raid on the fund would make Colorado ineligible to receive another $21 million annually in federal wildlife grants funded by taxes on sporting goods.
So, at the end of the decade - assuming, generously, that this money grab would actually end after 10 years - Colorado wildlife management programs would be lightened to the tune of $260 million. And for what?
While it's not clear precisely what projects the bill's sponsors have in mind, the fact that the House and Senate sponsors, as well as the House co-sponsor, are from either the Eastern Plains or suburban Denver would strongly suggest the water projects are not going to benefit the West Slope. Quite the contrary, in fact, especially if they aid and abet diversion of water from this side of the Continental Divide.
Even granting sponsors the benefit of the doubt, no matter how worthy their intentions, the irrigators, farmers, utilities and local governments that will benefit from the projects should be the ones footing the bill, not Colorado anglers and hunters, and not at the expense of Colorado's wildlife.
Not incidentally for Grand County residents, HB 1150 is scheduled for a public hearing in the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee on Monday, Feb. 21. Rep. Randy Baumgardner (R-Hot Sulphur Springs) is vice-chair of the committee. On the other hand, Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, chair of the committee, is House co-sponsor of the bill.
Baumgardner's presence should give Grand County citizens a voice on this issue when the committee takes up the bill on Monday.
Beyond that, Colorado lawmakers loyal to the interests of anglers and hunters across Colorado will vote to kill this turkey of a bill before it has a chance to take flight.