About 20 people attending a budget meeting the agency hosted Tuesday in Bayfield didn’t jump up and down about the idea, but several did seem open to paying more for their licenses.
The agency hasn’t raised resident license fees since 2005. An in-state elk license costs $46, while an out-of-state license is $649.
If license fees were pegged to the Consumer Price Index, an elk license would cost $88 today. Non-resident tags are pegged to the CPI. While funding is going down, Colorado’s population and the costs of running the agency are both going up, Joe Lewandowski, a spokesman for CPW, explained at the meeting.
The costs of operating a fish hatchery, such as utilities, fuel and fish food have all increased. One thousand pounds of fish food cost $260 in 2005, today it costs $500.
To deal with the shortfall, in the past six years, CPW has cut $40 million from its budget and eliminated 50 positions.
CPW is managed as an “enterprise agency,” which means it does not receive any general sales tax dollars from Colorado taxpayers.
The majority of the agency’s revenue, about 62 percent, comes from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses. Federal excise taxes levied on the sale of hunting and fishing equipment comprise another 16 percent of the budget, while grants from Great Outdoors Colorado makes up another 12 percent.
Funds for the wildlife section and the parks section are completely separate; there is no co-mingling of revenues or expenditures. A license fee increase must be approved by the Colorado Legislature.
At the end of Lewandowski’s presentation, people attending the meeting offered some ideas for the agency to raise funds or save money.
One hunter recommended a flat fee for a hunting license, then hunters can buy tags for the species they want. Idaho and Utah sell such licenses, he said.
Lewandowski said having free fishing licenses for all anglers 64 and over is a money loser for the agency, as well. It costs about $1.5 million annually just to print out the licenses.
The agency is surveying 3,000 hunters and anglers in the state to elicit opinions on the issue.
A public comment form is also available online at www.research.net/s/CPW-Wildlife-Funding-Public-Comment.
After public comments, the agency might approach the legislature next year to ask for a bill approving the license fee increase.