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DENVER -- You've heard about the "Grand Slam" in tennis and in golf, but what about hunting?
Assistant Majority Leader Ray Scott, R-Mesa County, is sponsoring a bill to create a "Grand Slam Wildlife Raffle" to award hunting licenses for the following ten big game species in Colorado:
Rocky Mountain Elk
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep
Desert Bighorn Sheep
Rocky Mountain Goat
"We're trying to come up with ways...to fund more wildlife habitat," Sen. Scott said. "It's very difficult to do."
He said the raffle is likely to generate upward of $277,000 of additional revenue in the first year.
When asked if the "Grand Slam" means it would be "open season" on big game, Scott replied, "No, it's not like we're going to increase hunting dramatically. It's just one license for each of the ten species."
Under his proposal, raffle tickets would cost $50 each. Individuals could purchase up to 25 tickets, with the money going into the Grand Slam Raffle Fund.
One ticket enters the purchaser into each raffle drawing for each species.
The bill would also establish a five member Grand Slam Grant Committee, which may authorize a nonprofit organization to conduct the raffle and retain up to 5 percent of the proceeds for expenses, and to fund projects of its own choosing, that benefit wildlife in Colorado.
The Committee would be required to use up to one half of the revenue in the raffle fund for grants to nongovernmental agencies actively engaged in:
Wildlife habitat conservation or restoration
The recruitment of new hunters
Fostering and protecting the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation
Western Slope sportsman Denny Behrens, of the sportsmen's advocacy group Big Game Forever, says similar raffles in other states generate tremendous amounts of money for wildlife management.
"Here in Colorado, we're fortunate to have ten species, where some of the states only have 7 or 8," he said.
Behrens said he spoke to Parks and Wildlife Director Bob Broschied about trying to raise money to improve wildlife habitat and was encouraged to move forward with a Grand Slam Raffle.
"Talking with Director Bob Broschied, it has no biological impact on the (big game) populations," he said.
Behrens told Denver7 that it's critical to restore habitat.
"When we have heavy winters, similar to what we had last year, all those big game species move down on to the winter range. A lot of that is on sagebrush habitat that has been encroached by pinon and juniper," he said, "and so there have been huge efforts to go out and manipulate or move back the invasive (plant) species."
Behrens said once the invasive species are removed, "then the grasses are able to come back out and provide forage for mule deer and also for grouse and all kinds of wildlife."
When asked what would happen if their habitat isn't restored, Behrens replied, "then the species have a tough time surviving and we need that protection."
He said sometimes the predator population goes up and the prey population goes down, and sometimes it's the other way around.
"Sometimes the prey species get to be too much," he said, "and they start to depredate on rancher's properties. They run in and hit the haystacks."
When that happens, he added, "CPAW can issue a few more licenses to bring (the numbers) down."
The environmental group WildEarth Guardians opposes the raffle.
"We don't believe in the hunting of native carnivores," said the group's endangered species advocate, Taylor Jones. "We believe that eco-system balance is best maintained by letting animals live naturally in the wild and that includes the predator - prey balance."
Jones said WildEarth Guardians also takes issue with the bill's mandate for a Grand Slam Grant Committee.
"We're concerned that this committee would be made up of four big game hunters who could divert the funds to pet projects, or to nonprofits that don't share a common understanding of conservation."
She said there's "no guarantee that the the money raised would be used for habitat restoration or conservation as it's commonly understood."
Behrens countered that "all people in Colorado enjoy wildlife, but it's paid for by sportsmen. We proudly take that responsibility. We have for decades."
He said the money used to manage wildlife herds and maintain habitat come from the license fees paid by hunters and anglers.
Jones takes issue with current setup, saying it gives hunters too much say in how parks and wildlife operates.
She believes that people who purchase products used to enjoy the outdoors, like backpacks, sleeping bags and the like, could pay a fee that would then be forwarded to parks and wildlife.
She said that could help provide more balance in the decision making process.
The Grand Slam Raffle bill will be heard in the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday afternoon.