Legislation would limit public access to important fisheries and hunting units
DENVER—Sportsmen would become victims of short-sighted politics should the Colorado Legislature approve an ill-conceived bill that would forbid the state Division of Wildlife from acquiring new lands for hunting and fishing, and for protecting important fish and wildlife habitat in Colorado, said Dave Petersen, the Durango-based state field director for Trout Unlimited’s Public Lands Initiative.
“This bill is simply counterintuitive,” Petersen said. “With all the development happening in our state, and with all the wildlife habitat we’re losing, it’s important the Division of Wildlife be allowed to function on behalf of hunters and anglers, as well as on behalf of wildlife. If the DOW can’t acquire new lands, we will have lost the ability to add vital habitat as well as hunting and fishing opportunities, as we continue to lose those assets elsewhere.”
The bill, HB 1137, would forbid DOW from acquiring new land or water rights without first giving up the equivalent of the new acquisition. Additionally, the bill would require the division to pay fees to local governments—essentially a new tax on public lands—in an attempt to compensate these communities for lost property tax revenue. This “no net gain” approach to governing DOW, Petersen said, hamstrings an important state agency that works to protect and enhance wildlife habitat and ensure the thousands of Coloradans who hunt and fish the opportunity to do so.
“The bill’s authors fail to realize that hunting and fishing provide a huge economic benefit to small communities all over the state,” Petersen said. “By acquiring new fish and game habitat and allowing hunting and fishing access, the DOW is providing an economic boost to these communities that will far exceed any lost tax revenue.”
There were 265,000 licensed hunters in Colorado in 2006, and 571,000 licensed anglers. Each year, in small communities all over Colorado, these sportsmen spend money on food, lodging and services. Increasing the opportunities for sportsmen in Colorado is a good thing, Petersen said, and shouldn’t be discouraged by an out-of-touch fringe element of the state Legislature.
“In a time when we’re seeing more and more pressure put on our public lands from things like oil and gas drilling, residential development, escalating motorized abuse and overuse, and other incursions into Colorado’s wild heart, the last thing we need is a cap put on the amount of acreage available to wildlife and sportsmen,” Petersen said. “Hunting and fishing is part of Colorado’s heritage. We’ll lose that heritage if we don’t protect it, and I suspect our lawmakers will be hearing from hunters and anglers all over Colorado who’ll be sharing that same message.”