While the Colorado Senate is set to debate a transportation bill this week to ask voters for a .5 percent sales tax, the state House begins work on a bill to hike hunting and fishing fees by 50 percent.
One increase has gotten a lot more attention than the other.
The first increase in hunting and fishing fees in 12 years is steep and extensive, Senior citizens, for example, would no longer be able to fish for free under House Bill 1321.
If you lose your license and need a replacement, for example, the cost is no longer 5 bucks, but 50 percent of the cost of the license.
A one-day fishing pass, for example, for state residents goes from $8 to $12, and a year-long license jumps from $25 to $37.50. A small-game hunting license climbs from $20 to $40 and deer hunting goes from $30 to $45, on the list of increases.
The bill is up for its first hearing before the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee Monday at 1:30 p.m.
There’s not much time to debate it; the session ends in three and half weeks. And, notably, as of Sunday evening the bill didn’t yet have a Senate sponsor or a fiscal note from legislative analysts.
That’s troubling to Sen. Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, who has watched the process closely since last year, before the Division of Parks and Wildlife held 18 hearings on the raising hunting and fishing costs.
Garcia said not many hunters and anglers knew about the meetings, and he thinks the whole process is being rushed with such a large hike in fees on the table.
He said the fees might be justified, but the Division of Parks and Wildlife needs to do a better job of making that case to the public.
“I’m just leery of the process and how it’s being done,” he said.
Most people won’t know the fees have gone up until they go to renew a license or show up at a park and find they’re paying significantly more, Garcia fears.
According to the bill, the money would:
- Enhance access and services on public and private lands for sportsmen and women.
- Increase youth and adult hunting and fishing recruitment through education and outreach programs.
- Increase big game populations through habitat improvement programs.
- Protect state trust species through distribution and abundance monitoring, disease prevention and partnerships with private landowners.
- Address a backlog of renovation and maintenance for fish hatcheries and more than 100 dams owned by the division.
- Upgrade law enforcement, including communications technology compatible wth other law enforcement agencies.
- Recruit and retain qualified employees to manage wildlife, park, recreational and aquatic resources.
- Maintain park infrastructure under the pressure of increasing visitation.
- Ensure Colorado’s lakes and reservoirs remain free of aquatic nuisance species and open to recreation by providing stable funding for boat inspection stations.
“I’m not opposed to those things,” Garcia said. “I just think we need to have a conversation about whether we need to pay for all those things right now.”