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Fee proposal targets hunting preference
By Charlie Meyers
Denver Post Outdoors Editor

It's axiomatic in wildlife circles that most hunters prefer a buck or bull to a doe or cow.

But will that passion for a big rack, any rack, reach all the way into the pocketbook? If so, how deep?

The latest proposal for an increase in resident Colorado license fees, the one paraded before the Wildlife Commission the week before last, includes a $10 per head disparity in what a hunter pays for male animal compared with female.

It's only a draft proposal at this point, one that will be volleyed over the next couple months until the cover becomes worn. But the bucks/bulls issue adds another major variable to a debate that already includes two other sticking points.

The specifics are these: Under the latest plan, a bull elk license would cost $45, a cow $35, effective for the 2006 season. The current price is $30 for each. A resident hunter would pay $30 for a buck deer, $20 for a doe, compared with the current rate of $20 across the board. Similar, it would cost $30 for a buck or either-sex antelope license, $20 for does.

Big-game license prices for nonresidents were boosted sharply three years ago; resident fees haven't been adjusted since 1992 for any form of hunting or fishing.

This latest draft also proposes a $25 charge for resident fishing, $20 for small game, a $5 hike for each. Nonresidents would pay $55 for each, a $15 increase.

Such modest motions are offered against the backdrop of the real muscle in this fee bill, which is a $10 habitat stamp. Since the stamp has evolved as the centerpiece of the action, proponents decided to hold the various license hikes to a bare minimum.

As outlined on these pages last month, the habitat stamp represents a one-time annual tariff whose proceeds are designated for improvement of existing habitat or acquisition of additional hunting or fishing properties.

Habitat stamps have been installed with favorable review in neighboring states such as Wyoming, Nebraska and Montana, but the notion might face rough sailing in the Colorado legislature, which last year punched holes in another DOW fee bill. Lawmakers traditionally don't favor "earmarked" funds over which they have little control. Further, the administration of Gov. Bill Owens hasn't supported DOW property acquisition, despite a pressing need for prime stream fishing access.

To what degree legislative debate over the habitat stamp influences the overall fee bill remains to be seen.

A similar cloud of uncertainty shrouds a proposed 75-cent surcharge attached to every license to fund the Colorado Wildlife Public Education Advisory Council (PEAC). Created as a means to educate Coloradans about the positive benefits of hunting and fishing, PEAC's very existence suggests DOW is unable to achieve this aim through its own auspices.

The notion of an outside agency with vague accountability directing a vital element of policy doesn't sit well with many in the wildlife community.

Coupled with the existing 25-cent search and rescue surcharge railroaded onto every license to finance the deliverance of the general public and very few sportsmen, this means there will be an added levy of $1 on each of the approximately 1,500,000 hunting and fishing licenses sold each year.

All this seems like a great deal of political encumbrance upon something that started out as a simple effort to raise a few bucks from a long-overdue fee increase.

When all is said and done, when all the alligators have finished snapping, it may be wise to remember the adage about starting out wanting nothing more than to drain the swamp.

Charlie Meyers can be reached at 303-820-1609 or

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