Colorado Governor Jared Polis recently signed three bills to expand recreation access initiatives and increase conversation funds for natural resources in the Centennial State.
Colorado’s exploding population has created a huge increase in demand for outdoor recreation, challenging Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s (CPW) ability to dedicate funds to conservation programs. There are 42 state parks, 350 state wildlife areas, 45,000 miles of trails, and 23 million acres of public land in Colorado.
“Coloradans love and value our mountains, open spaces, rivers, and recreation areas. But increasing visitation is far outpacing the limited funds needed to provide the amenities and services we have come to expect in our state parks and other recreation areas across Colorado. Bluntly, we are loving our outdoors to death.”
– Colorado Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Dan Gibbs
Polis signed HB21-1326 General Fund Transfer Support Department Of Natural Resources Programs, SB21-249 Keep Colorado Wild Annual Pass, and HB21-1318 Create Outdoor Equity Grant Program. Of most interest to snow enthusiasts is the first bill, ‘HB21-1326 – General Fund Transfer to Support Department Of Natural Resources Programs.’
In the 2020-21 state fiscal year, bill HB21-1326 transfers $25 million from the general fund as follows:
- Section 1 transfers $750,000 to the Colorado avalanche information center fund for use by the Colorado avalanche information center in the department of natural resources (department) to support backcountry avalanche safety programs;
- Section 2 transfers $3.5 million to the wildlife cash fund for use by the division of parks and wildlife (division) in the department to implement its statewide wildlife action plan and the conservation of native species;
- Section 3 transfers $2.25 million to the search and rescue fund for use by the department of local affairs in consultation with the division to support backcountry search and rescue efforts;
- Section 4 transfers $1 million to the outdoor equity fund for use by the division to implement the outdoor equity grant program; and
- Section 5 transfers $17.5 million to the parks and outdoor recreation cash fund for use by the division as follows:
- $3.5 million for staffing and maintenance projects; and
- $14 million for infrastructure and state park development projects.
- Section 6 appropriates the amounts transferred in sections 1 to 5 to the department and the department of local affairs for the uses specified in sections 1 to 5 and authorizes the use of the money through the 2023-24 state fiscal year.
Bill SB21-249 – Keep Colorado Wild Annual Pass, directs Colorado Parks and Wildlife to create an optional, lower-cost “Keep Colorado Wild Annual Pass” to increase Coloradans’ access to our state parks and public lands. The new pass will be added when Coloradans register their passenger vehicles, light trucks, motorcycles, and recreational vehicles starting in 2023.
Bill HB21-1318 – Create Outdoor Equity Grant Program, establishes the Outdoor Equity Board in Colorado Parks and Wildlife, responsible for the governance of the outdoor equity grant program. The outdoor equity grant program is expected to increase access and opportunity for underserved youth and their families to experience Colorado’s open spaces, state parks, and outdoor areas.