Caribou Gear

CO outfitters and CPW financial sustainability

Oak

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Yesterday I attended the second, statewide meeting of sportsmen's representatives and CPW staff to discuss CPW financial sustainability. There were 14 non-CPW stakeholders in the room representing a wide variety of interests. It was a long (6 hours) but productive meeting, with good discussions about CPW's current financial situation and several potential alternatives for ensuring that CPW can continue to function effectively in the future. Staff will take the input they received and work on alternatives that could include a package of resident fee increases in the future (which are long past due, IMO).

One issue came up at the meeting that should concern every resident hunter. Representatives of the Colorado Outfitter's Association passed out their list of 5 potential concepts to fix the financial sustainability issue.

1) Equal opportunity between residents and non-residents in the limited draw for deer, elk, pronghorn and bear licenses. Those with the most preference points draw first, regardless of residency. No cap on non-residents.

2) A 50/50 split of limited deer, elk, pronghorn and bear licenses, with the non-resident draw occurring first.

3) Return to a 60/40 across the board resident/non-resident allocation, with a "hard cap." This means that non-residents would be guaranteed 40% of deer, elk, pronghorn and bear licenses, and may draw them with fewer preference points, or as a second, third or fourth choice, over residents.

4) Recruit 13 more resident hunters for each lost non-resident hunter if residents get more than their existing guaranteed allocation in the draw.

5) Pass a resident fee increase in the legislature.

The COA document suggests that a 60/40 hard cap on elk licenses in 2014 would have generated an additional $3.8 million. However, their math is far too simplistic and doesn't consider several factors that result in residents drawing more than their allotted allocation under the existing system. I will provide some interesting numbers below, but I used 2015 data because it is organized much better than the 2014 data.

Total elk applicants in 2015
R: 127,099 (62.8%)
NR: 75,254 (37.2%)

Applicants that applied for a preference point 1st choice
R: 32,061 (25.2% of R)
NR: 39,508 (52.5% of NR)

1st Choice license drawn
R: 55,983 (58.9% of R who applied for a license 1st choice)
NR: 22,137 (61.9% of NR who applied for a license 1st choice)

The major flaw in the COA data is that they are taking the total number of elk licenses available in the draw, including all cow licenses, PLO, late seasons, etc, and applying a 0.4 multiplier. The reality is that there is not high non-resident demand for a vast majority of elk licenses available in the draw, and NR 1st choice applicants are successful at a higher rate than residents. And over 50% of NR are just building points with their 1st choices.

The COA math is so erroneous that I normally would give this proposal little thought. But if I learned anything at the CPW Commission meeting last week, it is that CPW staff is not very good at math and the Commission won't bother to check their work.

Some of you may remember that the CPW Commission chose to "freeze" the 80/20 units at the existing level during the 5 years season structure process last year, and revisit the issue this year. If they had not frozen the list, we would have went from 15 to 35 deer hunt codes at 80/20 and 20 to 22 elk hunt codes. At that meeting in September, COA proposed that the Commission consider an across the board 60/40 split for residents and non-residents.

You can be assured that this proposal will be making it to the CPW Commission soon, if it has not already. Resident sportsmen better be prepared to show up and fight for their allocation this time. And if a resident fee increase is proposed in the future, you might consider the alternatives before voicing your opposition.
 

HighDesertSage

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Oak,

Thanks for posting this and keeping hunters in the loop. I can't believe CPW would even consider a proposal this asinine, considering CO is already one of the most NR friendly states in the West. I think issues like this often times fly under the radar of the average resident hunter in CO and that is why they make it so far. I will be emailing CPW tonight.
 

LopeHunter

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Colorado is in a corner. Once a non-resident burns their decade or more of accumulated points then a growing number are not getting back in line since will take many more years to draw a high demand tag than took this time. Those non-resident hunters are making a logical decision to bail on that species in Colorado. Plenty of places in the West for a meat hunt and lots of cow or doe tags in most states but a meat hunt is not what most non-residents are seeking when will be out of pocket $2000 or more to take time to drive/fly to Colorado to hunt, gas, tags, gear that wears out, ammo, etc. Even if fill the elk tag then the 250 pounds of bull elk meat ends up being $8/pound.

The only way out now, since point systems never leave once are implemented and landowner/outfitter tags never leave once are implemented, is to hike prices for voting residents. That usually means a vote in the legislature. Hunters usually revolt and resident voters can vote. Often, years go by before even a 5% increase in most states.

Resident hunters will not accept a dramatically higher tag and license price (think in the range of a tag or license costing 1/3 of what non-residents pay now) so F&G will lose its independence as budget shortfalls develop. F&G gets rolled into a larger Parks Dept or has to beg and plead annually in front of elected officials that will include anti's and people who think they know better than wildlife biologists.

Politics becomes more critical and hunters tend to be lousy at politics. Look at the large landowners in CO that have wild sheep and look to be in the driver's seat to the point the example table used in the discussion and created by government officials is flawed and skewed. The fix appears to be in on that one and the landowner bluff will not be called.

If rank and file resident hunters do not step up to "self-tax" with higher licenses and tag fees then outfitters will smile as they whisper into a politician's ear that they have a solution that will not need a tax increase on voters. That is powerful and persuasive to a politician who more than likely has a new buyer for a table at the next election fundraiser, too.

We can fight the good fight but without a funding option we are mostly saying "no" to crappy ideas and not providing viable "yes" ideas that generate $$$ for F&G and politicians.
 

sneakem

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Mar 18, 2005
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Western, CO
Colorado residents need to put their "BIG BOY" pants on and speak up. A bunch of lazy, unorganized wanna be's that love to complain but aren't willing to step to the plate. We've already given up our spring bear hunt, lost tags to wealthy landowners/tag pimps, turned the wildlife commission over to private interest. We're trying to give away our sheep tags and now possibly most of our resident tags. SAD!!!

I'm almost ashamed to be a Coloradan....

Although there are a few that step up... there's never enough....
 

one ate E grain

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May 3, 2013
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25 miles N of Denver amongst sprawl
Thank You for going Oak, and for keeping others informed via your post here.

I kick myself for not going, Silverthorn isn't that far. I have all the usual excuses and they are true (overwhelmed with work etc) but those are the same excuses everyone else has aren't they.

I really need to start showing up. I wonder of those 14 non CPW folks how many were outfitters or land owners renting out land. In other words I wonder how many regular self guided hunters.

Alternative sources of funding might be a thousand dollar surcharge on all guided hunts. I feel unguided hunts for non residents are already too expensive. Also a fee for renting out land to hunt on. I welcome out of state hunters and am happy they come here to hunt elk, I just don't think it's good for anyone to limit the hunting to only the well heeled. If someone is spending $20,000 to be brought to a place and have the elk pointed out what's an extra thousand?



Another way to live within one's means is to stop spending. Do we really need all these studies on non game species? Maybe it's time to pare back some of the peripheral spending. Parks and Wildlife takes in many millions, seems like there aren't too many F+G officers, some offices are responsible for huge amounts of real estate. Wonder where all the money goes.
 

Outdooraddict

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Western CO
should residents pay more money for such limited seasons?

So, if we refuse to pay more we will get longer seasons?... Or get hosed again. Personally, I choose to pay more to ensure better opportunities as a resident hunter. It is our wildlife, and we are more than generous to NRs. And this COA group keeps trying to bend us over.

Oak, what do you recommend? We all wrote letters to our state representatives during the landowner preference program, and that did no good. ??? You represent Colorado public land sportsmen better than anyone I know- I'll follow your lead.
 

BuzzH

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Laramie, WY
This all sounds pretty familiar...many of the same arguments are used in Wyoming, but so far, we've been able to keep some of these "good" ideas off the table.

I would recommend, rather than trying to save the DOW budget by "paring down" or "living within ones means" is to come up with non-traditional funding to cover non-game related expenditures. Also, be careful about asking the Legislature to look at cost savings measures in regard to the DOW. What will end up happening is that they will pressure the DOW Director to reduce their budget and the result will be programs being cut. The Legislature doesn't have the authority to determine what programs to cut without passing legislation, but the Director could/can make the cuts as painful as possible (saw it happen in Wyoming).

The answer is not to strangle your DOW, the answer is to fund it.

The roadblocks you'll run into is that there is a fear (founded or not, I don't know??) that if non-traditional funds are raised and used that the "anti's" will have a seat at the table. That's why I recommended above, that the additional revenues be "ear-marked" for funding of non-game species, habitat enhancement, etc. that aren't necessarily tied directly to GAME management.

That will free up additional funds to use for game management.

I think anytime that you ask for Resident fee increases, you're going to get 50% support as a best case. The trouble is, that the other 50% are going to oppose you on it and be pissed off that their elk tag went up a few dollars.

Most are not willing to put the effort into thinking about what's at risk by opposing a modest fee increase...and that is the Outfitters and Landowners pushing their usual agenda as pointed out by Oak.

Good luck to the Colorado Residents on this issue...stay the course and get yourselves on the same page.
 

Matt Foley

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What is the best way to speak out? Letter to state reps? Call CPW? Show to Meetings? and where is the best place to find these meetings. I think it would be be good to start a thread that sticks to the top of the forum, with info on who to contact and a list of meetings.

As a new Colorado resident I am all for raising tag prices. It seems to me that resident tag prices have not kept up with inflation and I am willing to pay more. However, we need to be careful not to price to many out. I also wouldn't mind seeing a higher tag price on premium limited elk licenses and premium deer units.Also, how about charging a higher fee for just getting a point? Say maybe $50, that can still be put towards a OTC or leftover license. I hate to see the cost of hunting go up, but it would rather pay more rather than loss opportunity.
Thanks for the info, Oak.
 
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Generally speaking the key to well funded Fish and Game/DNR/Conservation departments is some sort of funding outside of pure license purchases and user fees.

If you want to see a success story look at the Missouri Department of Conservation as they have a 1/8 cent of the state sales tax going directly too them. It has allowed very inexpensive in state licensing, lots of land purchases and on going research that has benefited a lot of other states.

Across the river in Illinois DNR budgets are funded at 40% of the level they were 10 years ago and the department now only exists on user fees alone to disastrous consequence where the can't even afford to fix park pavillion roofs and cross country ski trails went unmowed for 3 years. As a result private interests have done really well because they need no help while the ~3% of the state in public areas continue to degrade.
 

Outdooraddict

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Western CO
I guess CPW should try to dip a little more into the "marijuana pie". :) Really, I think the state made somewhere around 60 million dollars last in tax revenue, and projections show that it will continue to climb. The state will make more money, it should manage it appropriately.
 

Oak

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I think the first thing hunters need to consider is the current financial situation of CPW. The wildlife side of the department is in a very poor position financially, some reasons which are their own doing and some which are out of their control. I hear residents arguing that CDOW was doing fine financially until the merger and we bailed out the parks, which is patently false. At the time of the merger, the Parks side was in the black and Wildlife was in the red. License fees cannot be used for Parks expenditures or the state will lose P-R funding. The USFWS is just wrapping up the first audit of CPW since the merger.

The last resident fee increase was passed by the legislature in 2005 and implemented in 2006. The combined effect of the recession in 2008 and a concurrent reduction in cow elk licenses as herd objectives were reached resulted in a steep decline in revenue. Since 2009, over $40 million in expenditures and approximately 50 FTE have been cut from the wildlife budgets. Each dollar of the 2006 license fee is now worth approximately $0.83 due to inflation.

The department is facing several additional future expenses over the next decade, which are estimated to cost up to $130 million above the current operating budget. Among the most costly and most critical are emergency dam repairs to 11 of the 110 dams owned and operated by CPW throughout the state (9 wildlife-operated and 2 parks-operated). Seven of the 11 dams are rated as “high hazard” dams, meaning that loss of human life is expected in the event of a failure, while the remaining 4 are “significant hazard,” indicating that significant damage is expected in the event of a failure. One of these dams is currently under State Engineers Office storage restriction. The price tag for fixing these 11 critical dams is estimated at $40 million in 2015 dollars.

Non-resident license fees have been chained to the Consumer Price Index since 2001, which means that they are adjusted annually according to inflation. A non-resident elk license cost $450 in 2001, and now costs $615 due to the annual increases. In 1984, a resident elk license cost approximately 12% of a non-resident elk license. In 2015 residents are paying approximately 7.5% of the non-resident fee. Non-resident big game license fees equaled 56% of all license revenue collected by CPW in 2012. Non-resident elk license revenue was 47% of total revenue. If residents want to reduce the influence landowners and outfitters have on resident/non-resident license allocation, then they need to start carrying more of the water. Arguing about whether or not CPW needs the money is a non-starter at this point.

In my opinion, the best short-term strategy for residents to protect their license allocations is to support and demand that the CPW Commission and your legislators implement significant resident fee increases (~50%) and then chain resident fees to the CPI. You need to write letters and pick up the phone. Let the Commission know that you prefer a fee increase over additional non-resident license allocations. Demand that your legislators support significant resident fee increases. There will likely be strong opposition from some representatives, especially on the R side of the aisle.

A longer term goal should be to find an alternative funding source for non-game expenditures, as Buzz mentioned. We cannot afford the continued fear of letting non-hunters “have a say” in management. Guess what…they already have a say. They should be carrying some of the load. The only way an alternative funding source will ever be a priority for your representatives is if you let them know that it’s a priority for you.

Should we pay more for our limited seasons? Give me an alternative. We have two 5 day elk seasons and everything else is longer. If a resident elk license went up to $65, that would be $13/day. Choose a 9 day season and it drops to $7.22/day. Your resident archery elk license would cost you a whopping $2.17/day.

Those are my thoughts. YMMV
 

Sabot

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Dec 5, 2011
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Well written and informative Oak. As a flat lander who enjoys trekking to Colorado to hunt, I'm much more interested in the long term sustainability of the whole big game hunting opportunity than I am about non-resident's getting more tags.

In fact, if non-residents had to get fewer tags to make it work long term, then that's what should be done. Unfortunately, simple economics will likely rule in this unfolding story.

Although we all wish at times government would run more like a business that is bound to a budget an can't print money to spend more, this issue is a good example of how running the wildlife department like a business is not sustainable as structured.

You are exactly right that dramatic changes will have to be made to pricing structures and allotments AND OR additional money will have to be infused from somewhere else because a system built on the current financial model and pricing is not sustainable.

It's really as simple as this: A business that sells 2 products, one with a high profit margin and one with a low profit margin, has 3 choices to make more money:

1) Raise prices on the lower margin product to gain more revenue
2) Sell more of the higher margin product to gain more revenue
3) Get a loan from the bank to gain more revenue

In both option 1 and 2 there are points of diminishing returns. Raising prices on the cheaper product will reach a point where people don't buy it (and Colorado really needs more residents participating in the long run). Selling more of the higher margin product comes at a cost as well, as there are not an endless supply of buyers willing to pay big bucks for a tag.

Option 3 is the road to losing the whole deal as uninterested folks in power won't divert funds away from things they are more interested in for long.
 

Dinkshooter

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I guess CPW should try to dip a little more into the "marijuana pie". :) Really, I think the state made somewhere around 60 million dollars last in tax revenue, and projections show that it will continue to climb. The state will make more money, it should manage it appropriately.

I love the thought of hippies smoking doobies for hunting!
 

noharleyyet

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Oak's pic is in Webster's conjunctive with the definition of common sense..

Well said.
 

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