CWF Board Chair Kent Ingram serves as an elected member of the Sportsmen’s Roundtable and has attended the various public meetings convened by Colorado Parks and Wildlife re the concept of increasing resident hunting and fishing license fees.
CWF sent these comments to CPW on September 27:
September 27, 2016
Director, Colorado Parks and Wildlife
1313 Sherman Street, Room 618
Denver CO 80203
Dear Director Broscheid:
Colorado Wildlife Federation (CWF), as Colorado’s oldest and most respected wildlife advocacy organization, welcomes the opportunity to submit comments concerning the Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s (CPW) proposed increase in resident license fees and overall financial sustainability. As to the proposed increase in resident license fees, our comments relate to an anticipated bill during the 2017 session of the Colorado General Assembly. The irony for long term sustainability of CPW is that although sportsmen constitute only 7-10 percent of the population, they fund 80 percent of the wildlife/fisheries budget, including federal excise taxes sportsmen pay for firearms and fishing equipment. Wildlife and fisheries are a public asset and changing funding for wildlife management to include the at-large public will be difficult but must be a necessary consideration and effort beyond a fee bill.
Resident License Fee Increase
We recommend that CPW work with a broad spectrum of hunting and angling groups between now and the next legislative session to develop consensus recommendations for reasonable resident license fee increases and for approaches to ensure CPW will garner broad support for the increase. We believe this step is necessary especially as 2006 was the last time resident license fees were increased. This process also will require development of income projections based on license pricing scenarios and description of specific programmatic uses of the additional funds. CWF will be pleased to participate, as during the past decade we have been actively involved in discussions of license allocations and costs.
CWF, after deliberation by its Issues Committee and Board, believes the greatest amount of sportsmen’s and sportswomen’s support for a resident license fee increase exists up to a level of a 50 percent increase. We also note that a greater increase than 50 percent does enjoy some support. Across potential percentage increase levels, sportsmen’s support for legislation is more likely if the bill specifies a multi-year phase-in formula.
In addition, we favor an automatic CPI Index increase with this caution: CPW must engage in transparent communication with sportsmen each year as to revenue, expenses and plans. The CPI Index likely is essential to prevent or to significantly diminish deficits. In addition, we favor a reasonable charge for senior fishing licenses. A reasonable increase would be, for example, $10 initially that can be increased incrementally in future years in conjunction with other licenses. CPW also should consider changing the hard one-year start for annual fishing licenses to one year from date of purchase to make it more convenient for anglers to pay increased annual fees.
Suggested example specific license incremental increases for fishing licenses are as follows:
Resident Annual $26>>>>$34>>>>$42
Resident Senior $10>>>>$ 15>>>>$20
Resident 1-day $ 9>>>>>$10>>> $12
2nd rod stamp – no change
Youth – No change
Non-resident annual – no change or a $5 to $10 increase
Non-resident 5-day $21>>>>$25
Non-Resident 1-day $10 no change
Resident Small Game and Fishing Combo $41>>>>$50>>>>>$60
As CWF developed recommendations as to the proposed resident license fee increase, we conducted a quick survey of a small sample of 125 of our members who hunt and/or fish. We posed these questions: Do you support a resident hunting and fishing license fee increase? If so, how much of an increase do you support? [Choices given were 25%, 50%, 75% and 100%.] This question was followed by another asking whether the increase should be phased in or imposed in one step. Next respondents were asked if they support an automatic future CPI Index increase, and last, whether they support a fee for a senior fishing license. CWF received 40 responses during the three-day survey period. All respondents stated that they support a resident hunting and fishing license fee increase. As to the percentage increase, a majority favored a 25 percent increase in one step, followed closely by those who support a 50 percent increase in one step. The next most prevalent response was support for a phased-in 100 percent increase. A clear majority supports an automatic CPI Index increase and a fee for senior fishing licenses. We must note that among those respondents who did not favor an automatic cost of living increase the concern expressed was that CPW will neglect to communicate valued detailed financial information with sportsmen in the future because an automatic CPI would eliminate the need to gain their support again. Several also expressed a need for “hard facts and numbers” to demonstrate that the merger has not resulted in use of wildlife cash funds in part for state parks’ operational support expenditures (either directly or indirectly).
Other CPW Financial Sustainability Issues
Our review of CPW’s Wildlife budget documents reveals some key areas that CWF believes need to be programmatically addressed:
CPW is the largest dam owner in Colorado and dam inspections concluded the enterprise agency has a looming $40 million bill to upgrade dams CPW owns. The dams need not all be fixed immediately, but rather progressively year by year. The anglers of Colorado pay a disproportionate amount into the habitat stamp fund, compared with the state’s hunters. Funds from the habitat stamp should be assigned to addressing the dam maintenance needs since reservoirs are aquatic habitat and provide angling activities. Acquiring new access, while a noble goal, should be curtailed until the dam maintenance issue is addressed. This may require some revisions to the current rules (or law) governing use of habitat funds.
Sportsmen have asked CPW for new “access” initiatives statewide. CPW has represented that it would adopt such an initiative if its fiscal health is improved. Sportsmen would be wise to hold CPW accountable to act upon this commitment.
Adjustments in pricing for youth licenses (now lower for ages 12-17) should continue.
Payments to other agencies are almost $9 million per year. Every effort should be made to review those expenses, and unless the “other agencies” are really helping CPW address fish and wildlife conservation, they should be eliminated (legislatively, if required, or administratively if legislation is not needed). CPW should review all funds paid to others in order to reduce the outflow of funds that are consequently unavailable to help support specific Wildlife needs that are necessary to maintain the status quo and potentially to meet future operational needs including:
1. Enhancing management of game species.
2. Maintaining and improving CPW’s ability to stock fish in lakes and streams.
3. Maintaining and improving access to private and public land for hunting and fishing.
4. Protecting and improving fish and wildlife habitat.
5. Maintaining and improving state wildlife areas.
6. Developing and enhancing shooting ranges close to home.
7. Repairing and maintaining dams that create lakes for fishing, boating, camping.
8. Keeping invasive species out of important land and water wildlife habitats.
9. Preventing the federal listing of species as endangered or threatened.
Ø Grants to others average an estimated $8.77 million annually. Grants to others should be diminished so that the CPW can meet its own internal infrastructure and personnel needs first, to help stabilize the operating budget. The exception would be for any 100 percent pass-through funds CPW receives that do not require wildlife cash as a match.
Ø Capital acquisitions average $5.8 million per year. Before additional properties are acquired, CPW should review the status of all the existing State Wildlife Areas and divest those that are not performing as intended to conserve wildlife or to provide good hunting or fishing opportunities. Divesting non-performing properties would reduce maintenance expenditures.
It is unacceptable that the wildlife cash fund loses money on each big game application fee transaction. The big game license processing fee is only $3. Almost certainly that level of fees does not cover license processing costs and the Visa-Mastercharge discount charges. The solution would be increasing the processing fee to $10 and also imposing a separate “convenience fee” to cover the credit card discount charges. Both fees should become a zero sum loss and dollar gain, if possible. Replacement of the application charges should be the highest priority, since legislation is unnecessary to make such change.
Ø Given the cuts in staff recently, we believe it is important to maintain existing staff and to improve salary structure.
Sportsmen and all Coloradans have a stake in the financial health of our Colorado Parks and Wildlife agency. CPW, as a enterprise agency, must manage cash flow well, maintain adequate reserves, protect our state’s wildlife and fisheries, and support sportsmen — the paying clients– by involving them in reviews of CPW’s programs. CWF is available to further discuss these issues as the fee increase proposal progresses.
Board Chair and President
Colorado Wildlife Federation