January Legislative Update

Representatives Perry Will and Dylan Roberts and Senators Jonathan Cooke and Cleave Simpson will introduce a bill to reauthorize the Habitat Partnerships Program (HPP). The bill will permanently authorize the funding mechanism of the HPP with some statutory changes. This bill should be introduced early and will be moving quickly.

There’s likely to be a bill addressing sensitive wildlife data exemptions. The DNR is still working on that with their AGs. They’ve had internal meetings and are looking at defining the data exemptions statutorily, where is the best place to look or locate and make those changes. They are wary of creating data exemptions because it brings a lot of different stakeholders to the table. Once they are firm in their approach, they’ll begin more significant conversations with legislators.

Last year, SB21-245, the DNR’s backcountry search and rescue services bill, became law. As details for that report are finalized, an external group put together recommendations and answers to questions about better support for backcountry search and rescue across the state. There will likely be legislative suggestions on what might be best on that front in that report. The DNR holds a bill slot to help implement those changes.

The DNR will present the SB21-245 report briefing before the AG SMART Act review committee on January 18th at 1:30. Once they receive the report, they’ll coordinate with the Department of Public Safety and Department of Local Affairs, and then it will later become a bill in the 2022 session.
(State Measurement for Accountable, Responsive, and Transparent Government (SMART) Act formalizes a performance management system in Colorado by providing broad parameters for the key elements of performance management: planning, management, data collection and reporting, and evaluation. In addition, the SMART Act provides the framework for a customer-focused approach to delivering government goods and services).

Sportsmen’s groups have been working with both Rep. Will and Rep. Roberts on pulling together a wolf license plate bill; as these conversations are going on, there are parallel conversations by The Rocky Mountain Wolf Project. TRMWP is pursuing a license plate bill whereby they would receive the revenue generated through the license program. Sportsmen are anxious about TRMWP’s plan and are trying to work with them to redirect that revenue to Colorado Parks and Wildlife for continued implementation and ongoing management of expenses within Prop. 114 and onwards. These conversations have reached a stalemate, and it sounds like TRMWP is likely to continue pursuing their bill, and sportsmen will continue to pursue their effort. Ultimately, we may see two wolf license plate bills appearing in the 2022 legislative session.

“We like our odds, and we hope that we will ultimately end up securing Representative Roberts and Will to run a bill that will direct the revenue to Colorado Parks and Wildlife,” says Freeston Strategies’ Gaspar Perricone.

On the angling side, there are conversations around legislation regarding the recreational in-channel diversion. This idea offers value to fish habitat, access and opportunity. Sportsmen groups have not taken an official position on that bill yet. Still, if it moves forward and does present itself in a way that offers significant aquatic wildlife habitat opportunities, sportsmen groups will engage on that one.

We’re hearing about a couple of other bills regarding big game wildlife crossing. These ideas have an eye towards the Department of Transportation. Various sporting and wilderness-oriented groups, coordinated by Pew, are conversing with Senator Danielson. The bill they’re looking at would do three things. First, it will require CDOT to fund a migration coordinator assignment in their department. The position would be an analog role to coordinate with the DNR regarding transportation clients on wildlife crossings. The second piece is that it would require that the DNR and CDOT fund the Wildlife and Transportation Alliance effort annually as part of your regular budget. Third, it would establish a reserve to provide a federal infrastructure package matching funds. That $350 million in grant funding is coming down for wildlife crossings for the state of Colorado to compete with other states and track those funds for crossings where it has already identified a need.

There are rumors about an effort underway to establish an external science advisory council to the roles and responsibilities of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission. Sportsmen find this idea concerning and duplicative and are not interested in creating a secondary wildlife commission of non-conservation-oriented independent voices.

One thing that is said to come from Rep. Barb McLachlan and an Ag post is a study bill looking at the long-term effects of lead on wildlife and ecosystems. The bill is differential on a long-term scientific-based study in partnership with CDPG.

Another bill, primarily led by the 14ers, would amend the Colorado Recreation Act. A ninth circuit ruling effectively limited the scope of liability protection to landowners for voluntary public access on their land. As a result, that has led to some closures of trails that led to 14ers. These conversations are tangentially relevant to the hunting community because it’s similar to the underlying sentiment of what we have seen regarding paying for hunting opportunity and liability protection to private landowners. We have an opinion through the CPW office that landowners who don’t convey funds for access are protected. There seems to be some remaining question about whether or not that’s true if there’s a paid trespass fee. Given legislative discussions in the last five years, the sportsmen community will be interested in incorporating the remaining interests of landowners or the remaining concerns of landowners who would like to allow public access for hunting.

There are rumors of a trophy hunt bill for lion, lynx, and bobcat.

There’s a draft bill regarding recreational target practice legislation and counties’ ability to regulate that. This bill would expand counties’ capacity for recreational shooting. This topic has a lot to do with open forest service land around Boulder County and Clear Creek. State and counties can’t tell the feds how to do that, but public perception is a factor. There is a statute out there that if counties close USFS land to shooting or hunting, it’s a de facto closure to gain damage; that’s already on the books. This bill would affect hunter-education courses as many classes use USFS and BLM land to do the range portion of their certification classes. This legislation targets the front range, but in the same token, it sets poor precedence because it’s really about guns and shooting. It’s a kind of “NIMBY” (not in my backyard) bill.

Categories: Legislation

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