Update: April 12: Colorado Senate Bill 11-208 did not pass 2nd reading. Instead, it has been delayed until next Monday, the 18th. Senate President Brandon Shaffer requested lay over of the bill due to discussion about whether the bill could allow oil and gas drilling in state parks.
Note: Weeks before the March 8 announcement of proposed merger of the two divisions, there was talk of possibly offering for lease an area of St. Vrain State Park for drilling to raise revenue for state parks. As to State Wildlife Areas, there has been drilling in Garfield SWA. In the James Mark Jones SWA, exploratory wells are being drilled by El Paso Gas. The James Mark Jones SWA is located in South Park. The mineral estate is owned by the State Land Board, which has leased the surface.
March 31: Senate Bill 11-208 passed out of Senate Agricultural, Natural Resources & Energy Committee on a 7-0 vote this afternoon. It now proceeds to the Senate Floor and then to the House Agricultural Committee. CWF’s Board Chair testified in opposition to the bill, stating that the process clearly has the cart before the horse. The transcript of his testimony appears under Our Stand [bottom left of this home page].
March 30: Senate Bill 11-08 was introduced this morning to combine the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation. The Bill also will combine the Wildlife Commission and the Parks Board, effective July 1, 2011.
We have listed the names of the Senate Sponsorship and of the House Sponsorship under Our Stand – bottom left of this home page. Is your senator and/or representative a sponsor of this Bill??
CWF ‘s Board Chair John Smeltzer will testify against the bill at tomorrow afternoon’s hearing before Senate Agricultural, Natural Resources and Energy Committee, and express our serious concerns about this rushed bill. The hearing is set for 2:00 tomorrow, Thursday, March 31 on the 3rd floor of the Capitol.
Late Thursday afternoon, March 24, the draft bill emerged that would combine Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife and Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation into a new division. The Governor announced his plan on March 8 to combine the two divisions. The stated purposes are to ” streamline state government, improve service to customers and preserve critical programs,” according to the Governor’s office news release on March 8.
Wildlife and Parks had been combined during the 1960’s and early 1970’s. It is very complicated to structure finances to prevent a “diversion” of game cash funds, which comprise a substantial portion of the DOW budget. License fees paid by hunters and anglers into the Division of Wildlife are matched on a 75% basis by the US Fish and Wildlife Service from excise taxes paid on hunting and fishing equipment. If game cash funds are diverted from wildlife expenditures, the match is lost until the game cash funds are repaid. In addition, the Parks Division does not have sufficient funds for its operations. It appears that funds within the Division of Wildlife budget would need to be used to help non-wildlife aspects of state parks. Other difficult financial and structural issues include composition of the new commission from the current Wildlife Commission and Parks Board.
See CWF’s updates under Our Stand – last updated March 25, as new developments occur.
CWF is working on comments re the draft bill and will post on on before Sunday March 27 under Our Stand.
CWF’s Statement: — March 10, 2011:
- The ability of wildlife professionals to provide effective management in a rapidly growing state must not be compromised in the budgeting process.
- The increasingly complex task of enforcing the state’s wildlife laws must not be weakened and the primary role the Division of Wildlife’s Level One law enforcement officers must remain a primary agency function.
- The Division of Wildlife’s “enterprise status” recognizes that the Division relies on hunters and anglers from throughout the nation to pay for wildlife management without receiving state tax money, and must be preserved.
- The approximately $18-20 million the state receives each year in federal excise taxes collected on the sale of hunting and fishing equipment in Colorado must not be jeopardized through the “diversion” of wildlife cash or conversion of wildlife property to non-wildlife use. Sportsmen require guarantees that game cash dollars will not be used to fund operations of state parks beyond wildlife expenditures currently made by the Division of Wildlife.
- The Wildlife Commission’s current statutory authority to develop policy and to adopt wildlife regulations must remain intact.