COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - State leaders have expressed concern recently about a steady decline in revenue from fishing and hunting licenses.
According to figures from Colorado Parks & Wildlife, licenses generated $77 million last year, compared to $82 million in 2006, a drop of $5 million.
The amount of decline may seem small, but state leaders said it comes at a time when population and demands on fishing and hunting resources are increasing while funding to maintain those resources is decreasing.
"It's not as simple as saying revenues are down, sell more licenses," said Randy Hampton of CPW. "We could do that, but if we did, we'd over-harvest populations and we wouldn't have those populations for future generations."
Hampton said the drop in Colorado revenue isn't as much as it is nationally. He cited more people living in cities, fewer adults passing outdoor activities on to their kids, and modern distractions like computers and video games as reasons for the drop in revenue.
Some local outdoorsmen offered their opinions on the situation.
"I haven't noticed any advertising for fishing and hunting," said Michael Gutierrez.
"The game wardens used to be your friend," said Kirk Royer. "Now, they're looking for a reason to write you a ticket. And I just drew a deer tag for this year that took me 12 years to draw. Now, that's a little bit long. I hunt in Kansas and Missouri, walk into the Walmart there, buy a tag and go hunting."
CPW said more programs to promote fishing among children and women should help reverse the declining revenue trend. Another idea is finding alternate funding sources such as a percentage of sales tax as Missouri does.
The state currently forgoes some revenue by giving seniors a discount on fishing licenses, charging them $1 instead of the standard $26 resident fee. Non-residents pay $56. Hunting licenses cost between $31 and $46. Colorado residents own two-thirds of fishing and hunting licenses in the state.
The state adds a $10 fee to licenses for a "habitat stamp" to protect wildlife habitat and improve access to fishing and hunting areas. However, minors and seniors are exempt from the fee.
CPW emphasizes that reversing the trend is a long-term process.
"If we teach a fourth-grader how to fish today, and that kid gets fired up for it, it's a number of years before he's even required by law to buy a license," said Hampton.
Gutierrez was fishing at Prospect Lake in Colorado Springs on Saturday. He said he just recently purchased a license and was fishing for the first time since childhood.
"I don't want my kids growing up that way," he said. "I want them to enjoy nature. I asked my son if he wants to do it again, and he does. He's having a great time and I'm going to keep doing it."
Concern about declining license revenue is one reason why the state Parks Department recently merged with the Department of Wildlife to form CPW.