Fought by DOW, Habitat Stamp Bill Lost in House Committee

In 2009, SB 09-235 was passed to reauthorize the Habitat Stamp Program.  It required an ongoing dialog between stakeholders to focus on finding solutions to outstanding issues of concern. These stakeholders, including the largest sportsmen organizations and the Sportsmen’s Advisory Group (SAG), sat down and discussed how to make the Habitat Stamp Program work for all.  The result was the introduction of HB10-1361. Farm Bureau was in active support of this bill.

Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg led the charge to bring together a coalition of representatives from sportsmen groups and Ag landowner groups, including CFB, when it became clear that the Division of Wildlife was not willing to discuss concerns around the Habitat Stamp Program.

This measure would have created the Colorado Wildlife Habitat Stamp Operation, Maintenance, and Enhancement Fund.  Money in the fund would be used for the expenses associated with the operation, maintenance and enhancement of property that is purchased using Habitat Stamp funds. Unfortunately, the measure met with extreme resistance from the Division of Wildlife and Director Remington who argued that they never agreed to have further discussions following the passage of SB09-235.

“It is too bad that the DOW has chosen to ignore both Sportsmen and Landowners regarding controversial issues with the Habitat Stamp program,” said Rep Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) the sponsor of the measure. “It is difficult to have a dialog with an agency whose leadership is less than honest.”

In the end, the sportsmen’s community was split on the bill as some of the sportsmen groups followed in line behind the DOW opposing HB 1361. The bill died on a tied vote of 5-5 in the House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday, March 23rd.

“The bill would have made sure that there is always money available to  meet the goals of habitat protection, hunting and fishing access, and preserving the diversity of Colorado’s wildlife,” said Crystal Korrey.

HB 1361 kept the authority within the Colorado Wildlife Commission and directed them to establish a process and guidelines to review all land acquired with Habitat Stamp moneys to see if it is consistent with the continued achievement of goals for which the property was originally acquired. The bill asked for a site-specific evaluation to be done to evaluate the estimated costs for operation and maintenance and such amount will be deducted from the revenues of the sale of Habitat Stamps. This process would determine if the Wildlife Commission should sell all or portions of those lands acquired with Habitat Stamp moneys if land objectives are not met.

Much thanks goes to Rep. Sonnenberg for his hard work and commitment on this bill. We would like to also show are appreciation for the members of the Committee that supported this bill: Rep. B.J. Nikkel, Rep. Carole Murray, Rep. Mark Waller, Rep. Brian DelGrosso, and Rep. Ed Casso.

(Image: ucumari)

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