Jerry Kopel


Will it be a gunfight at the OK Corral or a love-fest on Feb 6th when the Senate Agriculture Committee meets to discuss the fate of 3,000 to 6,000 outfitters?

Sen. Lewis Entz (R-Hooper) chairs the Agriculture Committee. His bill SB 27 will be heard along with a Sunset report by the Dept. of Regulatory Agencies (DORA). Both cover the same subject: Colorado Outfitters.

What do outfitters do? They typically provide transportation, equipment, housing, food, and guides. They also supervise and train persons attempting to "take" wildlife. All must be done in a safe manner, according to DORA.

There are 750 registered outfitters. DORA claims estimates by government agencies add between 2,250 to 5,250 unregistered outfitters. Both Entz and DORA want to rope them into regulation, but they differ on how to do it. Neither Entz nor DORA want the law regulating outfitters repealed July 1, 2003, but that's what will happen unless the legislature continues regulation.

DORA wants to keep outfitters "registered" under control of DORA's director of registrations. Entz wants outfitters "licensed" under an outfitters board that will exercise full powers. To do that Entz must correct an error in SB 27 which calls the law a "Type 2" transfer (an advisory board) instead of a "Type 1" transfer (an independent board).

Licensing usually implies some sort of testing process to determine minimum competency. (Your driver's license?) Registration does not.

How do you capture thousands of unregulated outfitters? Between July 1, 1996 to June 30, 2001, there were only 98 complaints of unregistered activity and 25 cease and desist orders. The DORA report doesn't list anyone who ever served jail time.

DORA confesses the present criminal system of fines and possible jail terms isn't working too well. It proposes a civil fine of $1,000 to $5,000 levied against the unregulated outfitter for each customer. Entz keeps the criminal penalty approach with a $5,000 fine and one year in the county jail against the unregulated outfitter and also against the customer who knows that outfitter isn't regulated.

A lawful outfitter must be 18 years old, and qualified in first aid. Present law sets an exact sum the outfitter must provide for insurance and a surety bond. Entz would let the proposed board decide the amount. Entz wants proof of an adequate operational base and no felony conviction for the type of activity involved in outfitting. Neither qualification is on DORA's list.

Entz would be more lenient than the present law in discipline of regulated outfitters. He uses the term "recklessly" in front of a lot of violations. DORA's statute doesn't use that word.

Most bad things that happen are negligent, not "reckless". It will be almost impossible to impose disciplinary action for a "reckless" violation, since the standard is too high. DORA keeps the present statute which simply states if you break the law, you are subject to discipline.

The term "recklessly" in the Entz version includes everything from violating local, state, and federal laws, to cruelty to animals, to the use of alcohol and controlled substances.

DORA's report has one boast. Under present law, "none of the complaints received in the last five fiscal years involved physical injuries to people."

Let's face it. Under the Entz version, you might get a "licensed" outfitter (assuming the state suddenly makes prosecuting the unlicensed a priority) and have a helluva better time, as long as the outfitter or guide (1) is not "reckless" and (2) you don't get hurt.

(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)

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