The Colorado Parks and Wildlife commission voted unanimously to raise fees on river outfitter licenses at its meeting last week.
CPW boating safety manager Grant Brown said the fees have never been increased before and have been the same since 1995.
The fees will now be increased in two phases to lessen their impact on outfitters. In the first phase, beginning in 2021, annual river outfitter fees will increase $125, from $400 to $525. Limited licenses will increase $50 to $150.
In the second phase two years later, the annual river outfitter fee will increase another $100 to $625 while limited licenses will remain at $150.
CPW regulations manager Krista Heiner said there are statuary requirements that the program be self sustaining and a budget analysis confirmed that CPW would need to be at these fee levels to make the programs self sustaining.
Brown said the fees support all of the program’s operations, including database management, river rangers, staff, equipment and administrative time.
CPW Dan Prenzlow also noted that outfitters operating in state parks like the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area pay CPW a 5 percent fee, which accounts for the bulk of fees they pay. He added that they back ended those fees this year to help outfitters deal with the COVID-19 pandemic so they can pay at the end instead of up front. Those usage fees, however, are separate from the license fees.
Heiner also said the increase was developed in conjunction with the Colorado River Outfitters Association. Brown said he’s worked with the outfitters association for the last couple of years, attending different meetings across the state and telling them an increase was likely coming.
“The biggest thing is we were able to work with outfitters,” Brown said. “They were real about it. They couldn’t believe it hasn’t gone up, so this was a long time coming. I hope they feel they had a say in it.”
The commission passed the motion unanimously.
“It was exciting for the sustainability of the program so we can run it at the same level,” Brown said. He also said they’re looking into creating a new database for outfitters that will be more “user friendly.” He called the current database “paper heavy” and said, like the fees, it hasn’t changed since 1995 either besides a software update.