Gov. Polis signs legislation to fund outdoor recreation, conservation and backcountry safety

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Courtesy of Colorado Parks & Wildlife

DENVER – Gov. Jared Polis signed three bills aimed at expanding recreation access initiatives and increasing conversation funds for natural resources in Colorado.

Polis signed bills 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.

Experts say rapid population growth and an increase in demand for outdoor recreation have challenged Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s ability to dedicate funds to conservation programs. Colorado maintains 42 state parks, 350 state wildlife areas, 45,000 miles of trails, and 23 million acres of public land.

“Coloradans love and value our mountains, open spaces, rivers, and recreation areas, ” Colorado Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Dan Gibbs. “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.”

Officials hope the new legislation will change how state parks are funded, provide support for backcountry search and rescue, and allow CPW to build new park facilities, enhance conservation programs and provide varied outdoor recreation activities.

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:

  • $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
  • $3.5 million to the wildlife cash fund for use by CPW to implement its statewide wildlife action plan and the conservation of native species
  • $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
  • $1 million to the outdoor equity fund for use by the division to implement the outdoor equity grant program
  • $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

Keep Colorado Wild Annual Pass

Bill SB21-249, 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.

Officials say that money generated through the new pass will ensure Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has the ability to improve infrastructure and services to keep pace with visitation increases, as well as implement new visitation-management systems at existing state parks.

“This new funding opportunity will help our agency strengthen and maintain our growing state park system, as well as dedicate more funding to our growing wildlife conservation work and programs,” said Colorado Parks and Wildlife Director Dan Prenzlow.

Create Outdoor Equity Grant Program
Bill HB21-1318 establishes the Outdoor Equity Board in Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which is 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.

The Outdoor Equity Board will be made up of individuals who have experience in justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in providing outdoor, environmental, and recreational education programs.

The grants awarded by the board will fund projects and organizations who provide equitable access opportunities for more youth from a diversity of backgrounds can have outdoor experiences across the state.

To learn more about CPW’s conservation principles and priorities, click here.

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