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Legislation on Black Bears Passes Colorado House Committee; <br/>Natural Resources Merger Bill Passes State Senate

Thursday, April 21, 2011

On April 18, the House Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources Committee passed House Bill 1294 by an 8 to 5 vote.  This bill will now head to the House floor for consideration.

In 1992, Colorado voters approved a ballot initiative to place certain restrictions on the taking of black bears, including prohibiting the hunting of black bears between March 1 and September 1 of any year.  House Bill 1294, sponsored by state Representative Paul J. Brown (R-59), would amend the 1992 restriction and allow the biologists and wildlife experts at the Division of Wildlife to properly manage black bears.  It would also amend the prohibition on taking of black bears between March 1 and September 1.  The NRA supports HB 1294 as it is consistent with our position that game management decisions should be based on sound science, and this bill provides for that.

Please contact your state Representative and urge him or her to support HB 1294.  Contact information can be found here.

On Tuesday, April 19, Senate Bill 208 passed the Colorado Senate by a unanimous 34 to 0 vote.  Sponsored by state Senator Gail Schwartz (D-5) and state Senator Mary Hodge (D-25), SB 208 would combine State Parks and the Division of Wildlife under the Department of Natural Resources.

The NRA has remained neutral on this legislation, but expressed detailed concerns about this merger in an e-mailed letter to lawmakers on the committee.  We were very clear that our primary interest is that dollars collected from hunters be used solely for the benefit of hunters.  Specifically, sportsmen pay license fees and federal excise taxes on guns, ammunition and certain hunting equipment.  Those funds are then returned to the state.  Any allocation of those dollars to non-hunter related activities would put the state in diversion and jeopardize those federal monies.

We also have concerns that any newly established boards or commissions having a membership beyond the hunting community may approve policies adverse to hunting and sportsmen.  For example, in some states, we have seen public land use closures and lead ammunition bans, among others, that negatively impact hunters despite the disproportionate share of funds contributed from sportsmen.  

Unfortunately, we have witnessed issues such as the aforementioned in a handful of states where departments and agencies were consolidated.  Just this year in Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources split and returned to its former separate structure.  While we remain neutral on SB 208, we consider it important to express our concerns at this time, and for lawmakers to be cognizant of potential issues in the future.

Please continue to check www.NRAILA.org for updates on SB 208.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.