A Perfect Day
by: Eric Allee 4/18/2017
As I walked into the Capitol building yesterday I was in awe of everything. The entire building exudes class and attention to detail. It’s so impressive it’s almost worth downtown traffic… almost. I tried to stay focused on finding Sam Heckman, but I kept getting side tracked by the beauty that surrounds you in the halls of the Capitol building.
Although the entire building is a work of art the piece that kept catching my eye was a stained-glass window portrait of Emily Griffith. Each time I was anywhere near that piece I couldn’t help but to stop and appreciate it for a bit. Finally, with a few minutes to spare I was inside room 271 sitting behind Sam Heckman, Robert J. Gonzales Jr, and six youth anglers preparing to testify in front of the Ag Committee.
Talking with Sam in previous weeks I knew the game plan. Sam was concerned with license fees being raised that not only the youth anglers he mentors through the Southern Colorado Junior Bass club, but youth anglers 16 and up all over the state might be priced out of fishing. Sam wanted to get the required age for holding a fishing license in Colorado raised from 16 to 18. A huge task considering the CPW’s current financial situation.
As Representative Jim Wilson and Representative Jamie James Arndt started outlining some of the things proposed in HB17-1321 my mind starting wondering. I know most of what was in proposed bill, but what I didn’t know is how Sam and Robert would accomplish their goal. One thing was for sure this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park for the CPW as committee members were asking difficult questions most of which were being answered by CPW Wildlife Director Bob Broscheid. Mr. Broschied did an amazing job articulating the CPW’s commitment to not only wildlife but sportspersons across the state… However, that doesn’t change why we were all there in the first place. The CPW needs additional funding and some of that money will come from raised license fees across the board. The mountain that Sam and Robert had become to climb seemed to be growing with each passing minute.
Representative Steve Lebsock asked Mr. Broschied if the CPW was going to use funds from the increased license fees to help fund a predator research study. I’m not familiar with the proposed study or how it’s funded, but the writing certainly appeared to be on the wall. If any funding from the increased license fees could be used for this predator research Representative Lebsock would be voting no on HB17-132. Mr. Broschied did a great job of answering the question knowing he didn’t have the clear yes or no answer that Representative Lebsock was looking for. At this point as an angler I was concerned for everyone. If the CPW doesn’t get the funding they need we all lose. Hunters and anglers across the state will lose opportunities, and there’s zero chance that youth fishing license age will be raised to 18. I’m far from a political expert but you could feel the skepticism from some of the representatives.
That’s when Sam Heckman, Robert J Gonzales Jr, Jordan Evans, and Robert Gonzales III stepped up to the plate. The tension in the room was immediately lifted when Jordan Evans and Robert Gonzales III began to explain to the committee what fishing meant to them and their peers. They were both well-spoken and did an amazing job not only representing the angling community, but also a shining example of how beneficial it is to spend time with Sam and Robert. Then both Sam and Robert explained what a positive outlet fishing has on our youth and that pricing them out of the sport could have negative consequences much larger than fishing. Sam and Robert both represented the angling community with passion, grace, and an unwavering commitment to our youth. I was proud to witness all four men speak on behalf of anglers in the state of Colorado both young and old.
After a brief pause Representative Lebsock shared a short story about fishing when he was younger, then looked over at Evans and Gonzales III and asked if they had a story they could tell him and possibly sway his vote back over to yes. Then you could see Representative Wilson slide his chair over to the young men and whisper to them “No pressure” at that moment the entire room started laughing and the vibe was extremely positive. There was another brief pause then Robert Gonzales III shared a quick story about fishing with his dad that had everyone smiling from ear to ear.
After their testimony we all met outside in the lobby for a few pictures with the youth anglers both representative Daneya Esgar and Representative Donald Valdez. With the kids all beaming with Joy Sam pulled me to the side and said “we did it brother, I can’t believe we did it” and like that lead by Sam Heckman this group of anglers from Southern Colorado have made history. When the ink is dry anglers in Colorado will no longer need to purchase a license when they turn 16 that age has been upped to 18.
As we made our way downstairs my eye was drawn to the Emily Griffith stained-glass window portrait again. I couldn’t help but draw some comparisons to Emily Griffith and Sam Heckman two amazing people with a commitment to the greater good. A commitment to not only helping those they know, but also to helping those they don’t know. Two individual’s that didn’t pay attention to what they couldn’t accomplish because they were too busy accomplishing what they could. Both Emily Griffith and Sam Heckman have made positive differences that will help our youth for generations.
Jordan Evans, Robert Gonzales III, Robert J Gonzales, and Sam Heckman… Thank you for allowing me to tag along and such a perfect day.
“You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you”
Blog content © Eric Allee
Fishful Thinker, CO 4/18/2017 2:59:29 PM
DEVILS ADVOCATE ...This is a feel good story no doubt, but I hope everyone considered the big picture. I don't know how many licenses are bought annually by 16-18 year olds, but if they now get free license, we as a state will loose not only whatever fees would have been raised by those sales, but also the Federal excise tax money which is allocated nationally to states based on license sales numbers. That excise tax is more than the license fees, and it's the reason that senior citizens will likely be required to purchased a license, albeit at a much reduced price of 50%, going forward. A greatly reduced youth license may have been a better plan given our financial situation because it would have preserved the excise dollars yet kept any barriers to entry for youth from being raised via fees they can't afford. Thoughts, Eric?
Fishful Thinker, CO 4/18/2017 3:02:52 PM
Side note...doesn't any change to license structure for residents require a full vote of the state legislature? I think that is the case but I easily be wrong. Perhaps the house bill as proposed was modified to change the minimum age prior to going up for vote? Just curious on this point...CL
Toadfish, CO 4/18/2017 3:03:19 PM
Well done Eric! It's nice to hear some positive feedback for a change. A lot of the discussion on this has been negative, but to hear that something positive is being accomplished gives me great hope that it will be for the better. Thank you for sharing!
Eric Allee (TigerHunter), CO 4/18/2017 3:13:41 PM
Hey Guys I published this then noticed I was late taking my son to a doctors appointment. This isnt finalized I was going to write this below right after I published the blog. I'll write more when I get to a computer. Good points Chad
Eric Allee (TigerHunter), CO 4/18/2017 4:35:24 PM
Chad: I think there's going to be some give and take here for sure, but I think in the long run this could be huge for fishing in Colorado. Now that seniors are being charged for their licenses that should help with the Federal excise big time. I don't know the numbers of licenses sold to 16-18 year olds either. When I was a kid I remember tons of buddies who wanted to go fishing with me, but I wouldn't take them if they didn't have a license. I think this will give kids who do fish more of an opportunity to take their buddies who don't have hopefully that leads to more adults license being purchased. The vote on the bill yesterday was 8-5 with the amendment to raise the youth fishing license to 18 added.
Fishful Thinker, CO 4/18/2017 5:17:34 PM
Thanks for clarifying and especially for getting involved, Eric. In my mind, youth recruitment is probably the single biggest issue the outdoors face. Having said that, public access is the second biggest issue and that takes money. I'm somewhat surprised that a $1 16-18 youth license option wasn't considered to keep fishing and hunting congruent as far a license requirements and preserve the excise base while being a nominal fee. I'd guess seniors outnumber youth by a large margin in fishing so hopefully there is enough of them to offset losses in Federal revenue by this amendment...assuming the bill isn't further amended to remove that clause as well. CL
Swigs, CO 4/18/2017 9:16:18 PM
The $1 senior license was not a license at all, thus did not count toward federal aid based on license sales. The $1 covered the search and rescue insurance, who knew $1 could buy a person thousands of coverage if the perfect storm plays out. Anyone that hikes in my O should buy the fishing license just for that coverage as I've seen insane helicopter bills for folks with no coverage.
Back to the point, I really like extending the age to 18 as the biggest issue, as CL pointed out, is getting new anglers to participate....and join the paying group at 18. Hopefully that group grows. If it grows all will be better, battling the electronics is tuff, I'd rather see my Kids on real fish outside rather than an efish.
I rest assured CL, Wickstrom, and CPW remains firm in getting kids outside, the 18 is a good idea but hope they add the $1 search and rescue and the minimum it takes to count as a license sale. It was an awesome read that hopefully won't get covered up too soon, push Eric's blogs to the top, these really matter
opencage, CO 4/20/2017 9:06:40 AM
Yeah, really good read. Will the age limit only change if HB17-1321 passes?
esoxrocks, CO 4/21/2017 1:54:09 PM
Probably agree more with the idea of a lower youth license fee rather than not requiring a license at all. I think that everyone who enjoys our public resources should support their upkeep and conservation...even if it's via nominal charge for younger participants. I do think we should really stick-it to the older folks however...let's charge them double the normal fees...heck, they have much more time to spend fishing...heh.