Many cash-strapped state governments are looking at simply closing state parks in a bid to save money, but the state of Colorado is considering a plan to merge its state parks and wildlife departments.
From this story in the Denver Post:
_The state agencies that deal with parks and wildlife may soon be merged into a single division in an effort to save money, Gov. John Hickenlooper announced Tuesday. Hickenlooper and Mike King, director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said that should their plan get legislative approval, no one will lose their jobs ˜ but positions will be eliminated as employees retire or resign. The initial estimate is that consolidation would mean about 25 fewer state jobs. Because of the merger, Hickenlooper’s proposal to repurpose state parks that were going to be closed in the current budget crisis is on hold.
_King said there is a “tremendous amount of overlap” between the Division of Wildlife and Colorado State Parks. “They provide recreational opportunity. They protect our lands, our habitat, our hunting and fishing opportunities,” he said, adding that consolidation “should have been done a long time ago.” Once the merger is complete, park users and anglers would be able to go to the same website to buy licenses, he said. But Rep. Matt Jones, D-Louisville, who retired from Boulder’s open space program, isn’t sure the consolidation is a good fit. “It would be like merging Wynkoop Brewery with Coors,” he said. “They both brew beer, but their missions are different.”
Rick Enstrom, a former commissioner with the Division of Wildlife, agreed that there is duplication between the two agencies and that streamlining is needed. But he said he worked with former DOW director Russ George to exempt the division from restrictions imposed by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which controls taxation and spending. The Division of Wildlife is now an enterprise account funded by user fees, such as hunting licenses. “How is that going to work then with parks?” Enstrom said. “The devil is going to be in the details.”_
Good idea? Bad idea? Any other states considering, or have already, combined their parks and wildlife departments?