DENVER – Colorado Parks and Wildlife could face state and federal funding cuts after the state Legislature denied its request to raise fees.
Last month, the Legislature killed a bill that would have allowed the agency to raise the price of fees, licensing costs and other registration costs, which provide most of agency’s funding.
The increase for these items would have been limited at 50 percent over a three-year period.
Fees were last increased in 2005, and without a match to inflation, CPW estimates it lost 22 percent of its buying power.
That impact could be compounded by other state and federal actions that could reduce funding from the Department of Natural Resources, of which CPW is a division. This was a point of discussion during a Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting held Thursday in Pagosa Springs.
Justin Rutter, chief financial officer for CPW, said the passage of Senate Bill 267 has the potential of cutting the agency’s budget.
The bill was a Christmas tree bill aimed at sustaining rural Colorado through provisions that included saving hospitals from a $264 million cut and bonding for $2 billion for transportation and construction projects.
Buried in the bill was the requirement for all state departments, except education and transportation, to cut budgets for the 2018-19 by 2 percent.
That was included by Republicans as a way of curbing government growth.
CPW’s budget accounts for $140.7 million of the total $266 million allocated to the Department of Natural Resources.
“We’re not quite clear what it means, and it could be that there are solutions elsewhere in the department that don’t impact us. Although considering the size of CPW, we may be involved,” Rutter said.
Of more immediate importance is the status of federal grants awarded by the Department of the Interior that are under review per an order issued last month by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.
The order requires all grants of more than $100,000 to be put on hold and reviewed.
That includes grants of revenue collected through excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment, which account for about $30 million of CPW funding, and state wildlife grants that bring in another $1 million, Rutter said.
He added that some grant requests from other states have been approved without change, and there is a chance the larger grants may be exempt from review for the upcoming budget year.
“I hate reporting rumors, but we have heard the rumor that there may be a blanket waiver to the grant process for Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson grants (which are based on excise taxes),” Rutter said.
If the larger excise tax-based grants are approved, CPW would be able to function as planned, even if the $1 million for the wildlife grants is delayed or revoked, he said.