Colorado DOW fighting legislation
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER ” The Colorado Division of Wildlife is voicing opposition to a bill now in the state Legislature that could limit the agency’s ability to buy or receive land or water interests in the future.
House Bill 1137 would require that when the DOW acquires land or water ” or an interest in either ” the agency would have to sell other property of equal or greater value within one year so its total property assets would not grow above the DOW’s current property portfolio as of Jan. 1.
Tyler Baskfield, communications manager for the DOW, said the bill could hamstring agency efforts to acquire future land or water interests for conservation efforts. He said the DOW is opposed to the proposed measure.
“While it is difficult for public agencies to weigh in on this stuff, when there is a bill that threatens the way we can accomplish our mission or work toward our mission, we are going to have to come out and oppose it,” Baskfield said.
The bill would also require the DOW to pay local governments a payment in “lieu of taxes” equal to the amount of tax the government would receive annually if the property were owned by a private person or corporation. It would also require that every land or water interest purchase be approved by the legislature either before or after the DOW solicits bid proposals about possible purchases.
Sponsors of the bill include Reps. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, and Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, and Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray. The bill was introduced into the House of Representatives on Jan. 15 and was assigned to the Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources committee.
Brophy, whose Senate district encompasses several counties in northeast Colorado, called the bill an attempt to keep “government from grabbing more and more lands of the state.”
“So if they buy something new, if they buy the real estate fee title outright, they have to sell something of corresponding value somewhere else,” Brophy said.
However, the bill doesn’t preclude the DOW from pursuing conservation easements, he said.
Brophy said he is behind the bill because he in philosophical agreement with Sonnenberg that the state needs to limit “how much real estate the state of Colorado is snapping up and owning, and taking off the tax rolls.”
Dave Petersen, the Durango-based state field director for Trout Unlimited’s Public Lands Initiative, said the proposed effort just “doesn’t make sense.”
“(Some) of the reasons people come to live here, industry moves here, people come to vacation here, are open space, public lands, wildlife and fishing,” Petersen said. “The DOW is trying to save lands and provide access, so to do something that would diminish one of Colorado’s greatest strengths, aesthetically as well as economically … is counterintuitive.”
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