About 45 people jammed into a workshop March 18 in Durango to give their input to Colorado Parks and Wildlife about the agency's future.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife operates 42 state parks that receive more than 12 million visitors annually. The agency also manages the state's wildlife species and sells about 850,000 hunting and fishing licenses every year. The agency had revenues of $194 million in 2013-14.
CPW staff said in 2014, Colorado residents had 223 million trail activity days, compared to 26 million fishing days and about 9 million hunting days. But fishing and hunting licences make up 41 percent of the agency's revenues, a little over $80 million. The next largest revenue streams are lottery funds at $32 million and 16 percent, federal and state grants at $31 million, another 16 percent, and park entrance fees and registrations at $28 million, at 15 percent of revenue.
Fewer hunters and anglers means less funding for CPW.
"I think we've missed a generation," Patt Dorsey, CPW's southwest region manager, said to the room about declining hunting numbers. "We need to help teach them, so they can teach their kids."
As fishing and hunting use declines in the state, state managers are trying to figure out how to fund the agency.
And what do residents want them to fund?
At the workshop, held at the Durango Public Library, participants were asked:
"What CPW successes would you be most excited to celebrate in 10 or 20 years?"
The workshop participants sat at tables and discussed their ideas, then were asked to put three on separate sheets of paper.
One table of seven participants tossed out the following ideas:
. more youth-family hunting, fishing and recreation
. cheaper hunting tags
. fewer and longer hunting seasons
. stronger volunteer program
. more varied trail uses. One participant wanted more bicycles allowed.
. reduced livestrock grazing, although another participant thought the current allotments are fine.
. better management of winter trail closures
. better quality hunting
And a group of participants at one table wanted CPW to open and manage Lake Nighthorse State Park. The idea was met with some applause, while it was jeered by about the same number of people throughout the room.
After some discussion, the table put out its three priorities:
. more activities for youth, family and young adults
. a steady revenue stream for CPW, other than license fees
. high-quality outdoor recreation, hunting and fishing, and recreation
A leader at each table then presented each group's top priority.
Other concepts that were put forth included more unit-specific hunts; simpler hunting regulations; more cooperation between CPW, tribes and other state agencies; and reduced entrance fees. Some other ideas tossed out included better management of wildlife corridors, including highway underpasses for game; and using science, not legislative priorities, in managing fish and game.
Chris Paulson of Durango, one of the participants, said CPW fees of $7 a day to enter a state park are too high, so she hikes on U.S. Forest Service land.
"You've priced yourself out of this market," she said.
After sorting the priorities into about 10 general options, participants voted for their top three priorities.
Sustained funding for the agency topped the list, garnering 21 percent of the votes.
Second was seeing the agency make decisions based on science research, at 15 percent.
More youth and family activities and habitat conservation tied for third with 14 percent each of the votes.
The financial issue has been one of the top priorities from other meetings held around the state.
The Durango workshop had the most participants, Dorsey noted.
"We want to know what people want and expect from Colorado Parks and Wildlife," Dorsey said. "With that information we'll know better how to plan for the future of our growing state."
All of the participants' comments will be reviewed by staff, she said. One funding idea was a $10 annual state park permit that is part of every vehicle registration in the state.
Comments on the agency's 2015 strategic plan also can be made via the following:
. online http://cpw.state.co.us/StrategicPlan.
. email DNR_CPW_Planning @state.co.us
. call (303) 869-1350
. write to Strategic Plan 2015, 1313 Sherman, Suite 618, Denver, CO 80203.
"Colorado has always offered great outdoor recreation opportunities, and we want to make sure those continue," Dorsey said. "We'll need everyone's ideas and everyone's help to plan for the future." Dorsey said.