BRIGHTON, Colo. -- On the decline. Facing a budget shortfall, stagnant license sales and the possibility of losing thousands of acres of hunting ground, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is proposing a licensing fee increase for in-state hunters and anglers.
CPW says without an increase in fees, it faces the grim possibility of losing thousands of acres in hunting leases and scaling back fish hatchery operations.
The agency has eliminated 50 positions and slashed its budget by $40 million since 2009.
That’s a stark contrast to business at Trout's Fly Fishing shop in Denver.
"We’ve seen an increase in fishing license sales from last year to this year,” said Tucker Bamford, a professional fly fishing guide at Trout’s. “Seems like more and more ladies are getting into it these days, which is cool to see."
Unfortunately, CPW isn’t seeing the same brisk business.
"Our agency is definitely facing some very significant financial challenges," said Jerry Neal, statewide CPW spokesman.
Big game hunting license sales are down from a high of 363,000 in 1998 to 281,000 in 2015, especially among young people.
"We're always looking for ways to reach the youth," said Neal.
Elk hunter Brian Svoboda is a young hunter in Colorado who loves the sport.
"I just love being outdoors,” said Svoboda. “And taking some pride in knowing that some of the meat that you're eating - you harvested it yourself."
CPW says without more money it stands to lose thousands of acres in hunting ground and could be forced to scale back fish hatchery operations.
"Again, we are just in the early stages of kind of looking at all our programs and services," said Neal.
One possible fix is to raise in-state license fees which haven't been increased in 11 years.
Right now, for example, an out-of-state hunter pays $626 for a bull elk license. An in-state hunter pays just $46 dollars for the same license.
For deer, out-of-state is $376, while in-state is just $31.
"The sportsmen have been very supportive of a fee increase,” said Neal. “The biggest point that we're wanting to clarify is that we don't know to what extent those fees will change or increase."
Svoboda, for one, says he'd support a reasonable increase, in the neighborhood of 50 percent or so.
"If the money is going to be used for what they say it is, for the land conservation,” Svoboda said, “and the hike in fees is not going to be a considerable amount, then I am definitely for it."
CPW says it must go to the state legislature for any kind of in-state fee increase. So, that wouldn't likely happen until next January.