Colorado is considering an increase in prices for their hunting and fishing licenses.
Unfortunately, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department (CPW) is facing an estimated $25 million shortfall this year. Basically, sportsmen and women in the Centennial State have two choices: cut wildlife conservation programs or pay more for Colorado hunting and fishing licenses.
Colorado has not raised prices for hunting and fishing licenses since 2006. During that time period, the cost of many items used by CPW have increased, sometimes significantly.
Among other changes, under the proposed new fee structure, a resident fishing license would cost $50 (up from $25) and a resident elk license would cost $88 (up from $49). Additionally, the new program would continue to adjust Colorado hunting and fishing license prices according to the inflation rate.
The parks and wildlife department does not receive any revenue from the state general fund and over 60% of the department’s revenue comes directly from hunting and fishing license fees.
Understandably, many hunters and anglers do not approve of the proposed fee increases. For instance, Bob Visek of Grand Junction said:
We’re paying the lion’s share of the fees that go into this thing. He added that it’s “not fair” that hunters and anglers pay fees and are now being asked to pay more while others who use land, such as campers and hikers, are “getting it for free.”
However, other hunters approve of the proposed change, especially considering the alternative. Denny Behrens, chairman of the Colorado Mule Deer Association said:
We’re ready to support a fee increase. If you take that $88 and divide it up into a nine-day hunt, you’re talking about paying $9.78 a day. Damn it, that’s cheap. That’s dirt cheap, especially when you put in perspective that there’s people out there who play golf for $80 a day.
States like Colorado often rely heavily upon revenue generated through hunting license sales to non-residents. Over 55% of CPWs license revenue comes from non-residents. Not only are these tags typically much more expensive ($629 for a non-resident combo bull elk tag and fishing license for instance), but raising prices on non-residents is much less painful politically for the state.
However, the state can only raise non-resident license fees so much before they reach the point of diminishing returns. Non-resident hunters also expect to get what they pay for when they shell out that kind of cash for a hunting license, which puts pressure on the state to optimally manage public hunting lands and fisheries.
Not surprisingly, the state is now in a bind. One one hand, CPW can risk the wrath of resident hunters by raising license prices. On the other, they can continue to soak non-resident hunters through further non-resident license price increases. They can also cut some conservation and management programs.
All of these options have the possibility of alienating important demographics the state relies on for funding through the process of purchasing hunting and fishing licenses. Either they increase license fees and risk having fewer sportsmen and women purchase licenses (and thereby further reduce revenue) because the increased cost isn’t worth it to them, or cut funding to conservation projects and run the risk of having fewer sportsmen and women purchase licenses because the quality of the product provided by the state isn’t worth it to them.
It really seems like a lose-lose situation for the state.
What do you think Colorado should do to cover the projected CPW budget shortfall?
For more information on the proposed Colorado hunting and fishing license fee increase, check out the CPW web site.
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