DENVER (AP) – Colorado could avoid closing 15 of its 41 state parks by consolidating the Division of Wildlife and the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, Gov. John Hickenlooper said Tuesday.
Hickenlooper said the state could save $3 million to $4 million a year by combining the boards and the 900 jobs in the state’s Department of Natural Resources.
Hickenlooper said about 25 positions would be eliminated over the next two years, but those employees could be used to help the department find other ways to save money.
“We committed on our first day in office to making government more efficient, effective and elegant,” Hickenlooper said.
Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, a Republican from Sterling, said the consolidation would allow Coloradans to get a fishing license and a camping permit at the same time on a state website. Sonnenberg said he will introduce legislation to carry out the consolidation over the next two years.
Hickenlooper said consolidation of other jobs also saved money. Hickenlooper appointed Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia to also serve as head of the state Higher Education Department, and he designated Dr. Chris Urina, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, to be the state’s chief medical officer.
Mike King, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources, which oversees nine divisions including parks and wildlife, said there are about 650 employees in the wildlife division statewide and 250 people in parks.
He said about 7 percent of his employees leave the department each year and most of the overlap could be covered through attrition. He said each program has education, accounting, planning, budgeting and administration duties that could be shared. King said 39 of the 41 state parks offer fishing and 32 allow hunting, making the consolidation a perfect fit.
King said the nine members of the wildlife board and five members of the parks boards would be combined initially, but the number of board members could be reduced under the consolidation.
King said he called state employees affected by the proposal and asked them for their help.
“This is an opportunity for our department and our employees to collaborate and streamline the way we do business while preserving opportunities for outstanding outdoor recreation and maintaining our commitment to protecting and managing wildlife,” King said.
– By Steven K. Paulson, AP Writer
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)