Colorado considers opening state trust lands to hunting and fishing

Colorado public lands

Photo credit: Dreamstime

Will there be more land in Colorado for hunting and fishing? Quite possibly. This month, state land board members and wildlife commissioners will meet to discuss a proposal that would add another 100,000 acres of state trust lands, increasing “the number of acres open to hunting and fishing to 585,000” in the Centennial State, The Denver Post reports. If approved, that additional acreage would be open in time for the upcoming fall hunting season. 

“Adding 100,000 acres is a great first step, but I think at the end of the day we need to think big,” said Tim Brass, state policy and field operations director for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. “I’d like to see some high-level policy change that addresses this at a large scale and puts Colorado more in line with our other Western states.”

Recent research conducted by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and onX “found that only 20 percent of Colorado’s 2.8 million acres of trust lands” are actually open to the public—an enormous difference compared to other western states. For instance, Wyoming allows hunting on 3.6 million acres of trust lands, New Mexico allows hunting on much of its 9 million acres and Montana allows hunting on two-thirds of its 4.76 million acres, according to The Denver Post. This is why, according to sportsmen and women, Colorado’s minimal access needs to change; hence, the proposal currently under review. 

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However, there is a distinction between how state trust lands operate compared to federal public lands, which are required to be open by law. Trust lands, according to The Denver Post, are used “to raise money for schools and other public institutions” and Colorado leases 95% of its 2.8 million acres to 1,800 agriculture leaseholders, outfitters with private recreation leases and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, who use a portion of the land for seasonal hunting and fishing. The money generated from these leaseholders is automatically placed into a $4.1 billion endowment for K-12 schools. The funds, according to Kristin Kemp, state land board spokeswoman, are used “for school construction and renovation.”

Yet, allowing access to this additional acreage is important—for two reasons: it allows those interested in participating in hunting and fishing places to go in eastern Colorado (since that is where most of the extra land will be) and it puts money into local economies. 

“I think it would provide a huge opportunity for hunters and anglers,” said Brass. “I think it would also be a boon for some of the rural economies, particularly in eastern Colorado, that are struggling right now.”

The land board meeting is scheduled for July 11 in Walden; the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting is scheduled for July 18 and 19 in Telluride.

Stay tuned to goHUNT for further details.


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