In the past 50 years, Colorado’s population has increased from 2 million to more than 5.5 million. As a result, Colorado’s landscape is undergoing tremendous change – changes extreme enough to elicit a bevy of “I remember” statements from Colorado natives, newbies and repeat visitors. “I remember when there was less traffic.” “I remember when there were more farms and fewer houses.” Statements such as these only begin to illustrate the challenges of a state that entices people to visit and relocate, resulting in one of the nation’s fastest growing populations.
With Colorado’s wildlife and outdoor spaces playing the muse, we are inspired to pursue varied and often competing forms of recreation while exploring from the mountains to the plains. But this increased recreational use comes with a measurable cost. Issues such as trail erosion, the introduction of invasive species, displacement of wildlife, and destruction of supporting habitat are often byproducts of human activity. In order to conserve our natural resources and enhance recreation opportunities that make Colorado special, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has to be able to grow with Colorado’s booming population.
For more than 120 years, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has been dedicated to the mission of perpetuating the wildlife resources of the state, providing a quality state parks system, and providing enjoyable and sustainable outdoor recreation opportunities. CPW educates and inspires current and future generations to serve as active stewards of Colorado’s natural resources. Through a user-pays, user-benefits funding model, fish and wildlife conservation programs and the management of recreational lands and waters have primarily been funded by hunters, anglers and park visitors through sales of hunting and fishing licenses, habitat stamps, and parks passes.
Hunters, anglers and outdoor recreationists have provided the lifeblood of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Yet, as Colorado’s population continues to grow, CPW’s programs and revenue must also grow to ensure these natural resources remain for future generations. As challenges to wildlife conservation and the complexities and cost of land and water management increase, CPW projects shortfalls of $30 million annually for the wildlife budget and $11 million annually for the parks budget by 2025. (Although the two agencies merged in 2011, the budgets for parks and wildlife remain separate.)
To address budget shortfalls, CPW is working with the Colorado Legislature to introduce a bill that would not only prevent further cuts to critical programs, but also allow CPW to do more for Colorado. This process began in early 2015 with outreach efforts focused on informing the public of the agency’s financial situation and eliciting feedback on approaches to address the budget shortfall. The outreach has ranged from public meetings to Facebook live and has allowed CPW to gather public input on initial ideas for legislation. The challenging and at times contentious, but ultimately productive, conversations helped to shape the current Hunting, Fishing, and Parks for Future Generations Act.
The Hunting, Fishing, and Parks for Future Generations Act prioritizes ten goals that CPW will fulfill by 2025:
- Grow the number of hunters and anglers in Colorado through investments in programs such as hunter education, Fishing is Fun, and the Cameo Shooting and Education Complex, and grants for shooting ranges in all regions of the state.
- Expand access for hunters, anglers and outdoor recreationists by renewing existing high-priority leases and supporting additional public access programs on public and private lands.
- Increase and improve big game populations through investments in habitat and conservation, including building more highway wildlife crossings to protect wildlife and motorists.
- Partnering with private landowners to improve wildlife health and sustainability, and ensure landscape connectivity to benefit agricultural production and habitat for all.
- Increase the number of fish stocked in Colorado waters to above 90 million through hatchery modernization and renovations.
- Identify and begin planning the development of Colorado’s next state park.
- Reduce risks to life and property and sustain water-based recreation opportunities by reducing CPW’s dam maintenance and repair backlog by 50 percent.
- Engage all outdoor recreationists, such as hikers, bikers, and wildlife watchers, in the maintenance of state lands and facilities and the management of wildlife.
- Recruiting and retaining qualified employees to manage wildlife, park, recreational and aquatic resources.
- Provide quality infrastructure at CPW properties by completing much needed construction and maintenance.
Over the next few weeks, CPW continues the dialogue by discussing how the bill, if adopted, will secure a better Colorado for current and future generations. And while the 2018 legislative session may not be at the forefront of the average Coloradan’s mind, you have the choice to weigh in on these important topics. Note that bills are often amended before they are finalized. So it’s important to pay attention to the details and keep checking back throughout the process.
CPW supports the following bills under consideration by the Colorado legislature:
- Hunting, Fishing, and Parks for Future Generations Act (SB18-143)
Budget concerns have led to the discussion of fee increases for hunting, fishing, parks and recreation. Read more about specific budget concerns and why CPW supports the Hunting, Fishing, and Parks for Future Generations Act. To follow the progress of the Hunting, Fishing, and Parks for Future Generations Act, please visit https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb18-143
- Mussel-free Colorado Act (HB18-1008)
The threat to Colorado’s waters from zebra and quagga mussels continues to grow. Infestations of these aquatic nuisance species are expensive to control and nearly impossible to eradicate. Read more about how this impacts you and why CPW supports the Mussel-free Colorado Act. To follow the progress of the Mussel-free Colorado Act, please visit https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb18-1008
If you use Colorado trails, rivers and open spaces or you enjoy the beautiful mountain backdrops of Colorado, you owe it to future generations to be informed about critical decisions being made today. For questions about the bill, please contact Doug Vilsack, DNR Legislative Liaison at firstname.lastname@example.org or 720-456-8956.