CPW proposes increasing license fees
September 1, 2016
Colorado is a sportsman’s paradise.
Our grand rectangle offers hunting and fishing opportunities barely rivaled by other states in the lower 48. The eastern plains abound with migratory bird species like doves and geese and river bottoms that cut through vast stretches of farmland provide shelter to an amazing number of deer, turkey and pheasants.
The high country is, arguably, even more blessed with majestic creatures. High mountain lakes and streams offer unparalleled fly-fishing habitat while the expansive mountain parks and thickly wooded slopes of the Rockies hold elk, moose, bear and a host of other big game creatures.
For many Coloradoans fishing and hunting are central aspects of their lives; family traditions handed down from father to daughter like an old weathered shotgun just waiting for the fall. The coming months could see a heightened level of tension though between resident sportsmen and the state’s wildlife management agency, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), following CPW’s announcement in early August of potential resident license fee increases.
The proposal is in the early stages at this time with CPW seeking public comment from state hunters and anglers about the proposal. The agency has not yet formulated specific fee increase proposals for the various licenses and is currently reviewing options. Any license fee increases would require approval from the Colorado legislature before becoming reality.
Current hunting and fishing license fees for state residents vary depending on the specific license. A resident adult elk license currently costs $46, excluding processing fees, while a fishing license goes for $25, according to data from the CPW web site. The last time license fees were increased for residents of the state was in 2006.
So far CPW has held 18 public meetings seeking comment on the proposal, according to CPW’s Public Information Officer for the Northwest Region, Mike Porras. If you would like to provide your own comments on the proposal you can go to https://www.research.net/r/CPW-Wildlife-Funding-Public-Comment and fill out a brief survey. The survey is seven questions in total, including a space for personal comments.
The proposal to increase license fees is being prompted by budget shortfalls for the agency. “Ultimately what this boils down to is CPW is facing significant revenue shortfalls,” Porras said. “We are taking this to the public and showing how expenses have increased but our number one source of revenue (license fees) has not.” Porras pointed out that license fees would currently be $88 for an elk tag if fee increases had kept pace with increases in the consumer price index.
Porras said prices have increased for nearly everything CPW must purchase to conduct operations. He cited examples such as fish food. According to data from CPW fish food prices have increased 92 percent for the agency between 2005 and 2015, the period between the most recent fee increase and today.
Parks and Wildlife is unequivocal in their statements that the agency will be forced to cut programs if license fees are not increased. A Financial Sustainability data sheet from CPW states, “wildlife budgets have cut more than $40 million in expenditures and defunded approximately 50 positions since 2009 (including almost $10 million in cuts to wildlife expenditures this fiscal year).”
Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s wildlife management programs are funded entirely by user fees. The agency does not receive any revenue from the state’s general fund. Any increases in hunting or fishing license fees would be applied directly to the wildlife division within CPW. Porras pointed out that the two separate divisions within CPW, Parks on one hand and Wildlife on the other, are funded through separate revenue streams and there is no comingling of funds between the two divisions.
The comment period on the proposed license fee increases remains open with no specific deadline for submission. Porras indicated any further action would depend on decisions made after the comment period is concluded. Because legislative approval is required for resident license fee increases officials from CPW were uncertain if or when any increases would actually go into effect.