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Senate Leader Delays Wildlife, Parks Merger Bill

The senate president has delayed a bill that would merge two of the biggest divisions in the Department of Natural Resources, wildlife and parks.  The move Tuesday comes amid mounting criticism of a plan by Governor John Hickenlooper who has said consolidating the two agencies would save money and keep state parks open in the face of budget cuts. Senate President Brandon Schaffer (D-Longmont) originally signed on to co-sponsor senate bill 208, but now says he still has questions about the consolidation. 

He called for it to be delayed during floor debate on the measure Tuesday, saying some of his constituents had raised concerns that it could open the door for oil and gas drilling in state parks.

"And I have not had an opportunity to follow up," he said.

But Schaffer insists his move to delay the bill doesn't mean he won't ultimately support it, and Senate Bill 208's sponsor, Senator Gail Schwartz (D-Snowmass Village), maintains it has nothing to do with oil and gas drilling.  

Nevertheless, the bill has sparked controversy from some hunters and anglers for other reasons.  They worry their licensing fees will be used to prop up an underfunded parks system.

The Governor’s office says the two divisions overlap in many areas, and officials there maintain the move would save several million dollars. No state workers would be laid off, but open positions would not
be filled.

Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.