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Veterans would get free Colorado hunting and fishing licenses under late-session 'Heroes' bill

May 9, 2017 Updated: May 9, 2017 at 11:47 am
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Two Colorado lawmakers want to give veterans a lifetime pass to hunt and fish. Gazette file photo.

A week after a Colorado Senate committee killed a package of license and fee increases on outdoorsmen, two lawmakers want to give veterans a lifetime pass to hunt and fish.

Democratic Reps. Jessie Danielson of Wheat Ridge and Barbara McLachlan of Durango got the Colorado Heroes Hunting and Fishing Act out of the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on a party-line vote Monday afternoon.

House Bill 1374 still needs to pass the House Appropriations Committee, two votes on the House floor, passage from at least one and probably two Senate committees, then score two up votes from the Republican majority on the Senate floor in the under 48 hours.

Maybe next year.

"I believe veterans who hunt and fish ought to be able do so for free - and that is why I wrote the Colorado Heroes Hunting and Fishing Act," McLachlan said in a statement. "It's the least we can do for Coloradans who stepped up to defend our freedoms."

Danielson said the state owes a debt to those who served the country and put their lives on the line.

"In a state as beautiful as Colorado, one of the things we can do to honor the service of those who put their lives on the line for us is give veterans free access to hunt and fish," she said.

Saluting the military is hard to argue against, but it's not cheap.

Try on $1.6 million a year, according to legislative analyst's report on the bill between licenses that aren't purchased and federal matching money for outdoors programs.

Fees on hunters and anglers haven't gone up since 2005, and the Division of Colorado Parks and Wildlife is looking for ways raise money to keep some areas open to outdoorsmen, to maintain species management programs and staff.

House Bill 1374, which was killed last week, would have ended free licenses for senior citizens.

The Division of Parks and Wildlife doesn't get a direct appropriation from the legislature and can only spend what it generates in fees.

Bob Broscheid, the agency's director, said higher fees were needed to stave off cuts, not expand the department.

Since 2005, because of inflation and recession, the agency has trimmed about $40 million and 50 full-time positions from its budget, he said.

"This is just to maintain what we're currently doing today," Broscheid told the committee that turned him down last Thursday. "We simply will not be able to fund those current programs at 2005 prices."

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