Colorado’s Revenue From Hunting and Fishing Licenses Jumped In 2019

As the Mountain West grows and hunter numbers decline, states are finding ways to bring in more revenue to fund conservation.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife, for example, saw a 20 percent increase in revenue from hunting and fishing licenses in 2019 after instituting some structural changes to how people purchase those licenses. The changes were a result of a 2018 bill called the Future Generations Act.

The legislation allowed the agency to up permit fees for in-state residents. It also made way for CPW to change how hunters gain eligibility for big game permits. Now, they have to apply for a small game license first as a qualifying step. 

CPW's Travis Duncan said the new permit and fee structures bring Colorado in line with how many other states in the West operate, and help fund the conservation that makes Colorado a hunting and angling hotspot.

Duncan said the extra money will aid the agency’s programs by "Increasing our big game populations, improving our wildlife populations, increasing the number of fish we’re stocking around the state."

He said Coloradans can also now expect hunting and fishing license fees to increase annually to match cost of living changes.

"Hunting and fishing license sales are one of the most important sources of funding for fish and wildlife agencies across the West," said Tim Brass, Colorado policy director for the nonprofit Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.

Nevada, Idaho, and Utah all require individuals to obtain some form of hunting license in the state before they are eligible to enter big game draws or apply for big game permits.  Wyoming ensures revenue by requiring hunters to pay up front for any hunting license. That includes applying for a big game permit.  If they're unsuccessful in getting one of those permits, the agency will refund the money.  

A 2016 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey showed that only about 5 percent of Americans, 16 years old and older, actually hunt—half of what it was 50 years ago, as NPR reported last year. 

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center For the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.