AVON — Four bills aimed at preserving and improving Colorado’s outdoors became law Saturday when Gov. John Hickenlooper put his signature on all of them.
In front of an enthusiastic crowd at the Walking Mountains Science Center, Hickenlooper said the bill will help preserve and enhance some of the best things about Colorado — hunting, fishing and the habitat that makes them possible.
“When I’m talking with entrepreneurs about locating to Colorado, they talk about quality of life,” Hickenlooper said. “First they talk about the mountains, and soon they talk about the people attracted to the mountains.”
Among the four bills Hickenlooper signed Saturday was Senate Bill 222, creating a “Protect Our Rivers” license place Colorado motorists can buy.
Ken Neubecker, with Colorado Trout Unlimited and director of the Western Rivers Institute, said every dime raised is for the rivers.
“This is for habitat preservation and restoration. It cannot and will not be used for any political or lobbying purposed,” Neubecker said. “This all goes back to the rivers.”
Montana has a similar program that has been very successful in raising money.
“We decided that Montana did, and so can we,” Neubecker said.
A similar bill died in last year’s Colorado state Legislature.
Sen. Gail Schwartz represents Eagle County in Colorado’s state Senate. She had high praise for the bills, saying it improves hunting and fishing access, and for her House colleague Millie Hamner, a Summit County Democrat.
“There aren’t that many legislators from Western Colorado,” Schwartz said. “We work together, and we stick together.”
Among other bills, Hamner sponsored Senate Bill 175, which continues the wildlife stamp program, a voluntary program that raises money for wildlife habitat preservation and improvement and provides public access.
Those purchasing the stamp raised $6.6 million and can be leveraged with money from Great Outdoors Colorado. Hickenlooper said the money has preserved and improved 173,000 acres of wildlife habitat, provided 80,000 acres of new public access and created 25 miles of public fishing access to Colorado’s rivers and streams.
“This is why Colorado is Colorado,” Hickenlooper said.
Hamner used to represent Eagle County in the state House of Representatives, but new boundaries put Eagle County out of her district. She lived in the Vail area for 23 years, working as a school teacher. In the crowd was one of her former students, Kerry Donovan, who now serves on the Vail town council.
In his career, Hickenlooper has been a geologist — and still refers to himself as a “recovering geologist” — a business owner and beer brewer, a teacher and a politician.
“When you recite the list it makes me sound like I can’t hold a job,” Hickenlooper joked with the audience.
After Hickenlooper signed each bill, he either handed the pen to the lawmaker who sponsored it, or grinned slyly and handed it to a smiling child standing nearby.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935, and firstname.lastname@example.org