CO Rep. Jon Becker (R- Fort Morgan) pulled his bill, Colorado HB11-1150 on February 21 at the House Agricultural, Livestock & Wildlife Committee hearing. CWF has actively worked to oppose this bill. CWF applauds Representative Becker and Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Mike King for their work to bring about this outcome. (See also the Department of Natural Resources press release below, reprinted in full.)
What this bill would have done: This bill would have transfered $5 million in game cash funds from the Division of Wildlife (DOW) to the Colorado Water Conservation Board each year for the next 10 years. In addition to the loss of $5 million, which is derived from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, the bill would have constituted a “diversion of funds” that will result in an additional loss of $21 million per year in matching federal funds. These federal funds come from excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment dedicated to support wildlife management activities, including hunting and angling. The loss of $21 million per year will continue indefinitely until the original funds diverted are repaid with interest. HB 1150 effectively eliminates almost $26 million per year from the DOW for 10 years, compromising its ability to manage wildlife and hunting and fishing recreation. The total loss would have been $260 million. The DOW derives the bulk of its funding from sportsmen and sportswomen and does not receive any tax revenue from the general public.
In a related action, the Colorado Department of Natural Resources issued a press release during the morning of February 17 stating:
“The Colorado Division of Wildlife is announcing a 5-year goal to prioritize investments in water projects that benefit wildlife and wildlife recreation. The Division owns 104 dams and has an active program to maintain existing facilities for safety, storage, and release. CDOW has identified 17 dams and associated infrastructure in need of repairs and improvements, and is actively seeking storage agreeements, exchange of use agreements and other water projects with water providers and water users for this purpose.
CDOW Director Tom Remington said, ‘We have several critical water development needs, such as repairing the dam at Beaver Reservoir to allow us to store water again. We also have some great opportunities, such as reaching a storage agreement with Rio Grande Reservoir operators to store Division of Wildlife water critical to our needs in the San Luis Valley.’
In cooperation with Representative Jon Becker (R-Fort Morgan), the CDOW is exploring other opportunities that will first and foremost benefit wildlife and wildlife recreation, but will also help other entities and individuals who depend on water resources in the state. The Division intends to allocate at least $6 million for these types of projects over the next five years.
Rep. Becker said, ‘I am glad to see the CODW seeking additional opportunities for water development that will benefit both wildlife and sportsmen. At the same time, the ancillary benefit to agricultural and other interests across the state is a win-win for all involved.’
‘In the face of budget issues that are creating challenges throughout state government, it is especially challenging to plan for increasing water demand while protecting natural resources over the long term,’ Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Mike King explained. ‘There is a lot of overlap between healthy wildlife habitat and what sportsmen and agricultural communities need. We welcome the opportunity to combine these goals and find ways to make limited state funding go further.’ ”