As Governor Hickenlooper was signing the Future Generations Act I couldn’t help but glancing over at Sam Heckman. Sam was beaming with his usual infectious smile and knowing Sam like I do he wasn’t smiling for the huge accomplishment this was for him personally. He was smiling for the positive impact this will have for youth anglers for generations to come. This has been a roller coaster ride from the beginning and the one thing that’s remained consistent, that’s always remained consistent is Sam’s dedication to our youth.
Last year in the capitol building Sam walked up to me and gave me a giant hug and said, “we did it brother.” Moments before Sam, Robert J Gonzales Jr, Jordan Evans, and Robert J Gonzales III were scheduled to testify in front of the House AG Committee they received word that an amendment had been added to HB 1321 to include free youth fishing licenses. Watching the men mentioned above testify a few moments later it was hard to keep my eyes from swelling up with tears. As a Colorado Native and life long angler I was overwhelmed with a sense of pride knowing what a huge positive impact this will have on future generations. After they were done testifying we met outside and celebrated, little did we know that joy would be short lived… We knew HB 1321 wasn’t flawless and it had a few more hurdles to overcome before it would be a done deal. Weeks later Sam sent me an email informing me HB 1321 died in senate finance. I was devastated not only for Sam and Robert who worked tirelessly for months, but also for the kids the free licenses would have helped.
Sam could have stopped here, and I would have still applauded his and Roberts efforts, but that’s not Sam. His dedication to youth in the state and getting them outdoors isn’t only when things are going well. It’s boundless and his determination and will to accomplish his goals is why he’s a hero of mine and an amazing role model for not only the youth in Colorado, but for all of us.
“Brick walls are there for a reason. They give us a chance to show how badly we want something”
Sam immediately went back to work on getting free youth fishing licenses added to the next CPW bill they’d bring in front of the state. When the CPW started hosting meetings getting feedback from sportsmen to form their new bill which would ultimately be called the Future Generations Act one of the biggest concerns with free youth fishing licenses was losing out on federal excise tax money. To keep this as simple as possible basically if the CPW doesn’t charge something for a license that license doesn’t count towards our numbers in receiving federal excise tax dollars. Basically, the more licenses we sell the more federal money comes our way to help the CPW which in turn ultimately benefits us. Sam could have dug his heels in the sand and not been willing to budge, but instead he choose to compromise, and they came up with an 8-dollar youth fishing license which was written into the Future Generations Act. The 8-dollar fishing license addresses the excise tax concerns and is less than the price of a large sized extra value meal at McDonalds!
One of the many reasons I’ve supported Sam’s idea since the beginning is we need to do everything we can to expose more of our youth to the outdoors. One of the most effective ways to recruit new anglers is though their peers. When I was 16 I had plenty of buddies who wanted to go fishing with me, but they either couldn’t afford to buy a fishing license or didn’t see the value in buying one. At 8 dollars it’s an easy buy for 16-17-year old’s and it will without a doubt lead to more anglers who’ll buy a full priced fishing license when they turn 18 and for the rest of their life.
Ultimately Sam has forever changed the landscape of youth fishing in Colorado and has made it as easy as possible for 16-17-year old’s to put down the video game controllers and pick up a fishing rod. Knowing Sam like I do he doesn’t want a pat on the back or even a congratulation for this amazing accomplishment. If you want to thank Sam the best thing you can do is….
Take A Kid Fishing.