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By Randy Hampton
Special to The SUN
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission received important updates on local efforts to conserve Gunnison sage-grouse when the Commission met in Gunnison last week.
Commissioners also received an update on a continued increase in the demand for big game hunting licenses in Colorado. Agency financial staff provided a presentation on future budget projections and explained that wildlife funding projections are not keeping pace with projected spending for the agency. Commissioners welcomed officials with Great Outdoors Colorado for an overview of the nationally recognized program that distributes a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to support Colorado’s places and natural resources.
Commissioners learned that Colorado continues to be popular with big game hunters from around the nation. This year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife processed 468,816 applications — a 4 percent increase over the 451,161 applications submitted in 2012.
“The best part of the application process this year was the fact that more than 82 percent of the applications were submitted online,” said Henrietta Turner, Limited License Manager for CPW.
Online applications have virtually no errors or underpayments when compared to paper applications. Additionally, paper applications require more resources to print, mail and process.
While demand for hunting in Colorado remains high, the number of licenses the agency can actually sell has declined as large elk herds have been reduced to address agricultural damage. Reductions in license sales revenue means that the agency will need to reduce spending. To address revenue declines in the fiscal year that begins in July, the agency plans to reduce funding for some grant programs, hold some vacant positions in the agency open, reduce operating budgets by 5 percent, and transfer some property maintenance costs to other funding sources. To address longer-term projections of revenue decline, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has established a committee that will be developing three spending-reduction proposals for Commission consideration later this fall.
On the sage-grouse front, Gunnison County Wildlife Coordinator Jim Cochran talked to the Commission on Thursday. He presented information on the efforts by Gunnison County and area landowners to protect Gunnison sage-grouse habitat. Gunnison County Commissioners attended the meeting and expressed appreciation for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s work to keep Gunnison sage-grouse from being listed under the endangered species act.
Commissioners also heard presentations regarding hunter and angler retention and recruitment efforts taking place in other parts of the country. Arizona Game and Fish representative Scott Lavin discussed that agency’s efforts to bring new hunters and anglers into the field. National retention and recruitment expert Bill Creighton talked about how agencies can enhance customer experience.
The meeting was held at the Aspinall-Wilson Center on the campus of Western State Colorado University on Thursday and Friday.
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission is an 11-member panel appointed by the governor. The Commission sets regulations and policies for Colorado’s state parks and wildlife programs. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission meets monthly and travels to communities around the state to facilitate public participation in its processes. The commission is scheduled to travel to Walden, Trinidad, Montrose, Lamar and Pueblo later this year.