In a move that will likely create a bit of controversy, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission has adopted a rule change that will require a hunting or fishing license for all activities in State Wildlife Areas or State Trust Land.
The change went into effect on July 1 and will affect hundreds of areas. All visitors 18 years and older will be required to have the valid hunting or fishing license for all activities, even hiking or biking. CPW wildlife manager Mark Lamb elaborated more on the reason for the change to CBS Denver.
Mostly, it is because the state has had a noticeable uptick in people getting outside to enjoy natural areas since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The rule change will help in a few ways. For one, it will help reduce traffic, but it will also help bring in more money to help fund the preservation of these areas.
"For most of the wildlife areas, hunting and fishing are the primary recreational activities," Lamb told the news station. "But here at this one, Mount Evans State Recreation Area a lot of people come to bike or hike too."
While options for hiking licenses or conservation permits were considered as an alternative, the CPW said in a press release that going that route would not work for the maintenance these areas need because these properties are funded specifically through the sale of hunting and fishing licenses.
"Any funding from one of these conceptual licenses or permits would reduce the federal grant dollar for dollar and thus fail to increase CPW's ability to protect and manage the properties," the CPW's press release reads.
The new rule change affects approximately 250 State Land Trusts leased by the state and an additional 350 State Wildlife areas. A full list of the areas affected can be found on CPW's website.
"This new rule change will help our agency begin to address some of the unintended uses we're seeing at many of our State Wildlife Areas and State Trust Lands," CPW Director Dan Prenzlow said in the press release. "We have seen so much more non-wildlife related use of these properties that we need to bring it back to the intended use - conservation and protection of wildlife and their habitat."
The CPW acknowledges there will likely be some confusion in the first few weeks this rule is implemented. For clarity, they state that fishing licenses cannot be used to enter state parks and that state park passes cannot be used to enter wildlife areas because the licenses and passes are for different purposes. The state will be pushing out additional educational information on the changes in the coming weeks and months.
"CPW is a user-funded agency and, unlike most government agencies, receives very little money from the general fund," the release states. "The new rule requires all users to contribute to the source of funding that makes the acquisition and maintenance of these properties possible."
It is an interesting idea, especially at a time when many states are hurting for funds that go towards conservation. We will keep an eye on this story to see if other states follow suite in the future.