A century ago, wildlife conservation in the United States was focused on the protection and improvement of our lands and wildlife populations. Game wardens were hired and charged with enforcing new regulations on wildlife take, designed to ensure that wildlife species would remain abundant for future generations. Hatcheries were developed to provide more opportunities for fishing in the nation’s vast network of lakes and streams. Hunting, fishing and exploring the outdoors were considered hardy sports that improved the national character and provided opportunities for individuals to prove their worth. These examples and many others were made possible by sportsmen and women’s willingness to pay directly for conservation.
Much has changed over the last 100 years, but the value of wildlife and the outdoor experience has not. Today, Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages the largest elk herd in North America, raises more than 90 million fish annually and is busy tracking disease, mitigating invasive species and educating outdoor enthusiasts on how to safely recreate on Colorado’s rivers and in the backcountry. Simultaneously, Colorado’s strong economy is bringing in new residents who want to be here because of Colorado’s natural beauty, diverse landscapes and access to outdoor recreation. Cities have developed where small towns had been and a growing population is filling in all corners of Colorado’s landscape. Oil and gas development is expanding as new technology allows access to resources that were previously impossible to extract. These sweeping changes have altered the landscape upon which Colorado’s wildlife depends. However, none of these trends change the fact that hunters and anglers continue to pay for the management of fish and wildlife.
As threats to wildlife and the complexities of management increase, Colorado Parks and Wildlife continues to adapt to these challenges with an ever-shrinking revenue dollar by becoming more efficient and scaling back on services and programs. In the past several years alone, we have cut more than $40 million out of our wildlife program budgets and defunded more than 50 wildlife positions.
At the end of 2011, the Division of Wildlife merged with Colorado State Parks to create Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The merger allowed the Parks and Wildlife Commission to take advantage of additional efficiencies and reduce costs; it also provided opportunity for two of Colorado’s premier outdoor recreation agencies to speak with one voice. Our wildlife managers serve and protect as their game warden counterparts did a century ago, while taking on new responsibilities such as education, land-use planning and biological monitoring. Similarly, park rangers are patrolling and keeping our state parks safe while introducing people to unique outdoor recreation experiences. The roles in which our employees serve have expanded to include education specialists, researchers, biologists and customer service representatives to name a few — all designed to serve Colorado more effectively. The combination of our skills allows us to be stronger as an agency, and better at not only managing our natural resources, but also reminding people why that management is important and providing more opportunities to get outdoors.
Although the merger allowed for certain efficiencies, it was not a magic bullet to solve budgetary problems on either “side of the agency.” The two agencies merged, but the funding sources that provide support remain separate, as mandated by state and federal law. The Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts passed 78 and 65 years ago, respectively, require that revenues collected through hunting and fishing licenses must fund wildlife programs and cannot be used for unrelated purposes. As a result, our agency’s budgets remain separate. Revenues that support both sides of our agency budget, wildlife programs and parks, have not kept pace with the cost of doing business today. Historically, Colorado fishing and hunting fees have been increased every 7-10 years. Our last resident price increase was passed by the legislature in 2005; the one before that was approved in 1988. Part of the reason why we have been able to extend the period between increases is because nonresident big-game licenses have been tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) since 2000.
Nonresident big-game license fees increase slightly in most years, helping us to keep revenue in line with costs to a degree. However, as a result of CPI, resident big-game hunters are paying less now than they have historically when compared to their nonresident counterparts. Resident fees are also low in comparison to historic prices and resident prices in other states. A resident elk hunter in 1984 paid today’s equivalent of $66 for an elk tag; in 1955 his father would have paid $88. Colorado’s prices are also typically below the average when looking at our neighboring Western states.
Although potentially compelling, none of these facts makes it any easier to open our wallets and support increasing fees to hunt and fish. Colorado’s economy is growing, but that doesn’t mean that folks don’t have to work hard to raise their families and earn a living wage. However, hunters and anglers have always been strong supporters of wildlife and habitat conservation and are the reason we enjoy such abundant fish and wildlife populations today. Even as a shrinking percentage of Colorado’s booming population, we have the ability to raise our voices and speak about what Colorado means to us. The Colorado we all cherish has healthy wildlife populations, open spaces and abundant outdoor recreational opportunities that allow everyone to explore our natural world and discover themselves, in no small part made possible by the financial contributions of sportsmen and women. How much does that Colorado mean to you?
Written by Bob Broscheid. Broscheid is an avid outdoorsman who loves Colorado and its abundant natural and recreational resources. Broscheid took the helm at Colorado Parks and Wildlife in 2013.
This is a joke. I moved here 10 years ago and am an avid outdoorsman. In those 10 years years I’ve witnessed a gigantic increase in people in the woods whether duck hunting out east or elk hunting the mountains. I would hate to see you post the numbers from money spent on licenses alone over the past 10 years. Everywhere I go its overcrowded. And you wanna talk about budget cuts? Then to top it off your DOW officers are the rudest most impolite people I’ve ever had to deal with. The chest puffed power trip they display is stronger than our own police force. I’m getting to the point it’s not worth fighting the crowds and the large number of unethical hunters out there ruining it for the rest of us. I got a ticket for showing up early at Jackson Resevoir but had to witness people shooting seagulls and geese 2 days before geese season came in and there wasn’t a DOW officer around. I moved here for the love of the outdoors and how you manage this state is making me want to move away
close to the truth there
Mike please do all of us a favor. Move to another state.
Take the Texans and Californians with you when you go
Enforcement and Education of Habitat stamps is in desperate need. Many State Wild Life Areas are now being used by the recreational community, new and growing sports such as paddle boarding are becoming a ever increasing use on such lands with the general public not understanding that to picnic and or paddle board you must have a valid Habitat Stamp. The loss of Revenue is staggering and I am sure grossly underestimated, Education and new sale strategies need to be implemented to help capture and help reduce the impacts of so many new recreationalist. It would be nice to see, someone other then the sportsman continually carry the burden. In Addition to this it would help the general public be more aware of how and why these lands are so important and how they became. Perhaps users would even be more understanding when I try to use the land for hunting and or fishing, having a paddle boarder go in or next to your decoys or a dog playing next to you as you fish can have such a negative experience in the enjoyment of these great properties. Even a greater tragedy when the user who is disrupting the activity feels like they are more entitled to the space then you are, even when they have not paid the Habitat Stamp Fee to be there….
If the animal numbers are rising , why are hunters seeing less ? If sportsman are paying for conservation why must we compete with cattle while hunting ? Land owners get to file crop damage yet do not allow residents free access to those lands , instead of working with hunters to reduce crop damage they instead charge outrageous fees for access then file for gov money
I personally have seen how land owners herd n harass wildlife off public lands and onto private. When i have inquired on this was told we( dow) have no people to stop it
I have hunted n fished here my entire life and seen many changes that benefit landowners and non resident yet restrict n discourage resident hunters
Those issues should be considered before any resident price increase is imposed
If residents could have access to lands now currently blocked off and not charged for that i would gladly pay any small lic fee increase. Until that time im considering hunting outa state.
I agree with his comment
Currently I don’t need to hear about a price increase for residents, I understand the cost increase that you guys go through but when you guys feel you need to buy and update everything buy new trucks come September to use up your allotted funds for the year so you don’t loose it for the up coming year is a joke it is nothing more than cheating the system. The working public is still struggling in this economy while government employees are still getting bonuses and raises. You guys can’t even get your draw system up and running right and make it work consistently, units take more points that what it says and your refund and points schedule is sent out to a third party who has completely messed it up in the last two years in a row. I have talked to a few game wardens who are awesome to deal with and some who are completely arrogant and what’s funny is they aren’t even on the same page one says that this is legal while another 10 minutes later says that is isn’t .
I agree with Bob’s statements. I would pay more for hunting and fishing licenses. I also think the state park fees are way too low. When you look at entertainment value and the value of our wildlife, fees are too low. I know the State Officer and Park Officials and workers are amongst the lowest paid workers in Colorado. Folks will bitch about lack of service and not support CDPW and not support hikes. You get what you pay for. The underpayed CDPW employees work because they love their State and their Jobs.
River rafters and the associated industry recieve quite a freebee because of the extremely low or nonexistent fees to launch, use, and load our rivers that are subsidized by the fishermen and park campers.
Environmentalists have recieve a giant freebie from hunters and fishermen and it is time they pony up too.
Thanks to the CDPW for their great service. They have always been courteous and respectful when I have come in contact with them. I love Colorado and my experience here has been made better because of these persons.
While I understand costs are rising. Many of us have not seen increases to compensate our wages. Most hunters I know bring much to the plate already! We buy fishing, small game, deer, elk, antelope and turkey licenses each year! We are actually in the end result already hit hard in costs and you are talking about increases. We drop significant revenue in our local economy as well. Eating at small town restaurants, renting yurts, cabins, hotels and purchasing gear. It’s time those benefiting freely from hunters pay a share and learn respect for hunters rights! Eventually, these price increases are going to limit the amount of licenses hunters purchase. I see this causing a decline in revenues. Others above have also covered perfectly what resident hunters are already experiencing! MT
I was throwing money into Colorado’s economy year after year, visiting for a week each November, buying groceries, eating at restaraunts, filling up with gas and paying the local butcher to process a Mule Deer each year.
I haven’t been drawn in several years and the lottery system reworking has killed off a terrific hunting tradition, costing Colorado upwards of $5,000 a year from my hunting party.
Your mis-management of the draw costs the state a staggering sum each year. Habitat Stamps are chump change compared to the funds from licenses for big game hunters.
You want to have funds to save your jobs? Take the money… it is being voluntarily offered year after year.
Former 9yr. Happy Dove Crrek Hunter