This summer, Colorado adopted a new rule requiring that all adult visitors to state wildlife parks buy a hunting or fishing license.
According to the Coloradoan, the change covers roughly 350 State Wildlife Areas and 240 State Trust Lands overseen by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission (CPW). The fine for failing to buy a license is $139.50.
Growing crowds for hunting and fishing
People use CPW lands for many purposes other than hunting or fishing. And the Covid-19 pandemic has strained resources at Colorado wildlife parks as people flock to outdoor settings.
Now Travis Duncan, a public information officer for CPW, has a column out explaining the need for the new rule. Duncan says the license money from hunters and fishers helps them acquire and manage those wildlife areas.
The problem is, hunters and fishers make up a smaller slice of visitors lately. They have been overtaken by visitors with other goals. And that, Duncan says, is harming the wildlife.
“Across the state, CPW has seen increasing use of state wildlife areas inconsistent with their purpose,” he wrote. “A good example is camping, including people taking up temporary residence in SWAs.”
Population growth. Hikers. Vehicles on big game winter ranges. Trash. Vandalism. All these pressures are combining to raise maintenance costs for CPW and push wildlife off state land.
Duncan said he’s been taking calls from the public about the new rule. And he has had to explain two things to them. One, wildlife conservation funding comes from federal grants that are partly based on Colorado’s hunting and fishing license sales. Two, the state General Assembly tried to require a Wildlife Habitat Stamp a few years back. It failed, because the federal government labeled that “program income” and reduced the state’s federal grants.
So, this year the CPW Commission passed the new rule, effective July 1, requiring a license. They believe it will bring in extra property-management money from the government.
The licenses are available at cpwshop.com. People can buy either an annual hunting or fishing license or a two-day hunting or fishing license. The annual licenses cost $40.24 (hunting) or $45.30 (fishing).
“If you care about wildlife in Colorado, buying a hunting or fishing license is one of the best ways to protect it, whether or not you actually hunt or fish,” Duncan wrote.