Pay to Play


If you do this, you might be like me. You'll start out reading a column about Colorado's mule deer population on the decline in certain areas and finish wondering if hunters and anglers should be the only ones supporting budgets of wildlife departments at state levels.

In a column written by Scott Willoughby in the Denver Post, "Don't blame hunters for loss of deer population," he writes that even though the state's game agency has adjusted the numbers down for available tags in some areas where the mule deer numbers have decreased -- and he means for the past 15 to 20 years -- the population continues to decline. Which means to Willoughby, that hunters aren't the problem or, at least, the only problem.

Other factors might include the following:

  • An increase in predator populations, such as coyotes 
  • Winter habitat quality and quantity on Western Slopes 
  • Summer drought effects on shrubs and other legumes
  • Invasive weeds
  • Uncontrolled fires

Willoughby writes, "But while the state's wildlife belongs to the people of Colorado, the agency does not receive state tax money and has long relied on the sale of hunting and fishing licenses to pay for wildlife management. Elk and deer licenses historically provide more than half of license revenue, and license revenue accounts for a lopsided majority of the division's overall budget."

If the wildlife in the state belongs to all the people, then why don't all the people pay a wildlife tax? Or fee of some sort?

In this day and age of budget reductions at state agency level and reduced hunting numbers nationally, it is prudent to say, "You pay. You play."  This means hikers, bird watchers, videographers, off-road vehicle enthusiasts and anyone else who uses and enjoys state lands.

Or maybe, cut some more fat out of state budgets and make the state pay for taking care of the people's wildlife. It may even boil down to this decision: continue to support a decrepit train system or boost wildlife management. Pour more money into public transportation for a few or wildlife for all.

For the record, Missouri passed a conservation sales tax in 1976 that takes 1/8th cent from every dollar spent and it supports fish, forest and wildlife conservation. It goes directly to the Missouri Department of Conservation. We can see the results in this state, even in difficult economic times. Take, for example, the reintroduction of elk in the state recently.

How about you? Would you like for your state to follow suit and pass a conservation tax that everyone pays?