How will Colorado fund outdoor recreation in the future?

RBC | Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s ability to effectively manage the state’s wildlife and 41 State Parks continues to be a significant challenge in light of the agency’s budget shortfall. If the situation persists, CPW officials say future generations may have less opportunity to enjoy some of the state’s most important natural resources.
To help find potential solutions, CPW invites the public to learn more and provide ideas and feedback during several meetings in key communities across the state. In Steamboat Springs, a public meeting will take place at 6 p.m., Sept. 6 at the CPW office, 925 Weiss Dr.
“Operating with a strained budget is not just a problem for the agency, it’s a problem for everyone in this state, whether you hunt, hike, fish, camp or boat, or depend on the revenue these activities generate for businesses and the state’s economy,” said Policy and Planning Supervisor Katie Lanter. “The public will need to be heavily involved and help decide how the management of some of Colorado’s most important natural resources will be funded so they will be available for future generations.”
Introduced last session, Colorado House Bill 17-1321 would have granted the CPW Commission—a citizen board made up of 11 voting members appointed by the governor and tasked with setting CPW’s regulations and policies—the authority to raise resident hunting and fishing license fees and park fees to meet projected funding shortfalls. After passing in the Colorado House of Representatives with bipartisan support, the legislative effort fell short when the Senate Finance Committee voted against the bill by a 3 to 2 vote last May.
“Funding is only one natural resource management challenge looming on the horizon,” said Lanter. “Over the next 25 years, Colorado’ population is expected to increase by 2.5 million people, putting more pressure on recreation areas and wildlife.”
Lanter adds shifting demographics are an additional challenge. By 2040, the number of Coloradans over age 65 will be three times as many as today. In addition, Colorado’s population is also becoming more racially and ethnically diverse.
“The public will have to decide what’s important to them in terms of wildlife and parks management—more cuts and less opportunity, or find a way to increase operating revenue so that we can manage at the level expected by Coloradans.” said Northwest Regional Manager JT Romatzke. “I can say that this agency has had to undergo severe belt-tightening and there is little room for more without severely crimping it’s mission. We are at a crossroads and we need to find an effective solution quickly, or risk losing a critical part of Colorado’s heritage.”