Colorado hunters dwindle as fees continue to rise

FORT COLLINS COLORADOAN - Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials are grappling with how to find new revenue streams amid budget cuts and millions of dollars worth of deferred maintenance stacking up at its dams and fisheries just in time for thousands of orange- and camouflage-clad hunters prepare to head to the woods next weekend for the start of big-game rifle season.

During a series of 18 “Funding the Future” meetings across the state this summer, wildlife managers explained the dire situation of a Colorado Wildlife budget that’s been slashed by $40 million since 2009 and yet still faces a budget shortfall of $15 million to $20 million by 2023.

Without a fee increase for in-state hunting and fishing licenses, CPW would lose access to thousands of acres it leases for hunting and fishing and wildlife conservation efforts would be compromised, wildlife managers say. How much of a fee increase Colorado hunters and anglers could see will be up to lawmakers next year, and though Fort Collins sportsmen have been supportive of an increase, they worry a steep hike could price out some hunters and turn off an already tuned-out younger generation that's not interested in hunting.

“I understand the budgetary needs, but certainly hunter recruitment and retention should be an extremely high priority,” said Steve Hilde of Loveland, who is worried the sporting traditions passed down from generations may be in danger as fewer younger people take up hunting and fishing.

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