CO BHA Testimony on SB 188: Landowner Voucher Program

The following testimony in opposition to SB 188 (Landowner Voucher Program) was delivered by Colorado BHA to the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee on 3/6/13.

Thank You Senators for the opportunity to provide comments on behalf of Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.

Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is non-profit conservation organization made up of sportsmen and women who value sporting traditions that are wild and accessible to all. We share a common concern that the peace, quiet and freedom that make hunting and fishing special may be lost to the pressures of development, reliance on technology and the growing privatization of our wildlife resources. We believe in managing wildlife as a public trust in accordance with the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, which is what brings us here today.

The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation defines wildlife as a public resource, to be managed for the benefit of the public and that wildlife is not to be allocated based on land ownership, privilege or wealth. For years, this model has provided for equitable access to hunting and fishing opportunities, regardless of a person’s net worth or background. Recently however, growing use of programs like the one being discussed today has threatened this bedrock of American Wildlife Management.

The landowner voucher program violates the tenets of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation by allocating wildlife resources based on landownership, and/or wealth, while further contributing to the growing private ownership of tags. It is a trend that our membership is deeply concerned about and thus we ask that you please oppose the land owner voucher program legislation, as it is currently written.

Specifically, our main concern is with the proposed 5% increase in private tags in the West and 10% increase in the East. This will result in an overall loss of opportunity by average hunters and therefore we wholeheartedly oppose this provision.

We recognize the need to provide landowning families who host big game on their property with the opportunity to hunt on their own land. And while this may have been the original intent of the program, this is clearly no longer the case. Landowner voucher tags are now sold on the open market at prices that favor wealthy individuals and push out the average hunter.

Furthermore, under the current proposal, half of the private tags allocated would still be available for use on public lands. We strongly oppose this system whereby privilege, through property ownership or wealth, can be used to buy special access to public wildlife on public lands.  Such programs clearly violate one of the most important tenets of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.

The continued allocation of private tags threatens our public hunting opportunity and the basis of our sporting heritage. We need to look no further than New Mexico to see where this gradual privatization of tags could get us – where over 50% of all elk tags and 70 % of all antelope tags are now privately held, forcing the average hunter to wait upwards of 20 years to draw an antelope tag while landowners hunt antelope every year. It is systems like this that discourage hunters from even applying.  

While we recognize the many hours that the Landowner Voucher Committee dedicated to this effort to develop legislation that would be agreeable to many interests and which would address some of the many concerns expressed by sportsmen, Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers cannot support the legislation as written.