Colorado’s natural resources are among our most treasured assets. However, rapid population growth and an increase in demand for outdoor recreation are challenging Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s ability to dedicate funds to conservation programs to maintain Colorado’s 42 state parks, 350 state wildlife areas, 45,000 miles of trails, and 23 million acres of public land.
Colorado passes historic legislation to fund outdoor recreation, conservation and backcountry safety
Today, Governor Jared Polis signed the bills at Golden Gate Canyon State Park to celebrate more varied outdoor recreation activities for all Coloradans.DENVER – Today, Governor Polis signed bills HB21-1326 General Fund Transfer Support Department Of Natural Resources Programs, SB21-249 Keep Colorado Wild Annual Pass and HB21-1318 Create Outdoor Equity Grant Program to expand recreation access initiatives and increase conservation funds for natural resources in Colorado.
“Coloradans love and value our mountains, open spaces, rivers, and recreation areas. But increasing visitation is far outpacing the limited funds needed to provide the amenities and services we have come to expect in our state parks and other recreation areas across Colorado. Bluntly, we are loving our outdoors to death,” said Colorado Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Dan Gibbs. The new visionary legislation passed this session will provide new tools to protect our wildlife, secure our existing outdoor recreation areas and increase access to the outdoors for more Coloradans for generations to come.”
The newly passed legislation listed below will fundamentally change how state parks are funded, provide much needed support for backcountry search and rescue, and will allow CPW the ability to build new park facilities, enhance conservation programs and provide varied outdoor recreation activities for all Coloradans.
General Fund Transfer to Support Department Of Natural Resources Programs
In the 2020-21 state fiscal year, bill HB21-1326 transfers $25 million from the general fund as follows:$750,000 to the Colorado avalanche information center fund for use by the Colorado avalanche information center in the department of natural resources (department) to support backcountry avalanche safety programs;$3.5 million to the wildlife cash fund for use by CPW to implement its statewide wildlife action plan and the conservation of native species;$2.25 million to the search and rescue fund for use by the department of local affairs in consultation with the division to support backcountry search and rescue efforts;$1 million to the outdoor equity fund for use by the division to implement the outdoor equity grant program; and$17.5 million to the parks and outdoor recreation cash fund for use by the division as follows: $3.5 million for staffing and maintenance projects; and $14 million for infrastructure and state park development projects.Keep Colorado Wild Annual Pass
Bill SB21-249, directs Colorado Parks and Wildlife to create an optional, lower-cost “Keep Colorado Wild Annual Pass” to increase Coloradans’ access to our state parks and public lands. The new pass will be added when Coloradans register their passenger vehicles, light trucks, motorcycles and recreational vehicles starting in 2023.
Funding generated through this new pass will help ensure that Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has the ability to improve needed infrastructure and services to keep pace with visitation increases, as well as implement new visitation-management systems at existing state parks, which may include shuttle services, timed entry reservations or other tools yet to be determined.
While Colorado’s hunters and anglers continue their strong legacy of financial support for wildlife management, there are few opportunities for all those who benefit to contribute to wildlife conservation and the trails and outdoor recreation infrastructure all Coloradans enjoy. This new annual pass will allow all Coloradans to help protect our state lands, wildlife and enhance the agency’s equity, diversity, and inclusion in the outdoors outreach and programs.
“This new funding opportunity will help our agency strengthen and maintain our growing state park system, as well as dedicate more funding to our growing wildlife conservation work and programs,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife Director Dan Prenzlow. “As our population continues to grow and our expectations expand, we are grateful that Colorado residents continuously want to serve as stewards for our lands and wildlife and want to find new ways to balance their outdoor recreation with mindful conservation. This new pass will allow our community to work together in a forward-thinking way that helps secure our outdoor heritage and wildlife legacy in Colorado.”
Create Outdoor Equity Grant Program
Bill HB21-1318 establishes the Outdoor Equity Board in Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which is responsible for the governance of the outdoor equity grant program. The purpose of the outdoor equity grant program is to increase access and opportunity for underserved youth and their families to experience Colorado’s open spaces, state parks and outdoor areas. The Outdoor Equity Board will consist of individuals who have experience in justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in providing outdoor, environmental, and recreational education programs. The grants awarded by the board will fund projects and organizations who provide equitable access opportunities for more youth from a diversity of backgrounds can have outdoor experiences across the state.
To learn more about CPW’s conservation principles and priorities, visit the cpw.state.co.us/conservation.
Mia Anstine is an outdoor writer, licensed outfitter, hunting guide, life coach, keynote speaker, and a range safety officer, firearms instructor, and archery instructor. She is the founder of MAC Outdoors and Host of the MAC Outdoors Podcast.
Mia Anstine strives to encourage others to outdoors, hunt, fish, shoot, and survive life with others in a positive way.
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