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Colorado passes slate of laws to fund outdoor recreation, conservation, backcountry safety

June 21, 2021, 5:17 pm
DNR Director Gibbs thanks stakeholders and partners for their work on the Create Outdoor Equity Grant Program prior to Gov. Polis signing the bill into law at historic Lincoln Hills, Colorado.

The Colorado Department of Natural Resources issued the following press release on laws passed this legislative session, and signed Monday by Gov. Jared Polis, to support the state’s outdoor economy and to ensure equitable access to public lands:

DENVER – Leaders in the Colorado State Senate and State House passed historic legislation this legislative session to ensure all Coloradans have the opportunity to access and support our great outdoors.

Colorado’s natural resources are among our most treasured assets. However, rapid population growth and an increase in demand for outdoor recreation are challenging Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s (CPW) ability to dedicate necessary funds to conservation programs to maintain Colorado’s 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. 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,” said Colorado Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Dan Gibbs. “The visionary legislation passed this session will provide new tools to protect wildlife, maintain outdoor recreation areas, support search and rescue efforts, and increase access to the outdoors for more Coloradans for generations to come.” 

The newly passed legislation listed below will fundamentally change how state parks are funded and will allow CPW to build new park facilities, enhance conservation programs and provide varied outdoor recreation activities for all Coloradans.

Keep Colorado Wild Annual Pass

Senate Bill 21-249 directs CPW 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. 

Funding generated through this new pass will help ensure that CPW has the ability to improve needed infrastructure and services to keep pace with visitation increases, as well as implement new visitation-management systems at existing state parks, which may include shuttle services, timed entry reservations or other tools to be announced. 

While Colorado’s hunters and anglers continue their strong legacy of financial support for wildlife management, there are few opportunities for all those who benefit to contribute to wildlife conservation and the outdoor recreation infrastructure all Coloradans enjoy. This new annual pass will allow all Coloradans to help protect our state lands and wildlife and enhance the agency’s equity, diversity, and inclusion in the outdoors outreach and programs. 

“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 CPW Director Dan Prenzlow. “As our outdoor needs evolve, we are grateful that Colorado residents continue to serve as stewards for our lands and wildlife and want to find new ways to balance their outdoor recreation with mindful conservation. This new pass will allow our community to work together in a forward-thinking way that helps secure our outdoor heritage and wildlife legacy in Colorado.”

Colorado State Parks and Public Lands Colorado Comeback Stimulus

House Bill 21-1326 invests $25 million towards improving Colorado’s state parks. Specifically, it provides funding for new state park infrastructure and development, staffing and maintenance, implementation of a statewide wildlife action plan for conservation of native species, backcountry avalanche safety program support, search and rescue efforts support, and funding for the outdoor equity grant program. In March, Governor Polis also signed into law legislation (SB21-112) that appropriated $20 million of the state general fund for capital improvements for increased access at certain state parks.

Create Outdoor Equity Grant Program

House Bill 21-1318 establishes the Create Outdoor Equity Board within CPW, which is responsible for the governance of the outdoor equity grant program. The purpose of the outdoor equity grant program is to increase access and opportunity for underserved youth and their families to experience Colorado’s open spaces, state parks and outdoor areas. 

CPW remains committed to collaborating with statewide conservation stakeholders and recreation partners to help secure a quality park system and successful wildlife legacy for Colorado. Learn more about CPW’s conservation principles and priorities.

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