Recently, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall announced draft legislation that would designate 22,000 acres of Browns Canyon between Salida and Buena Vista as a national monument and (in part) wilderness area, which would ensure the canyon remains just like it is now for future generations of hunters and anglers and other outdoorsmen and women. As part of a coalition of sportsmen organizations Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers announced support of the concept.
Since it's inception CO BHA has advocated for the protection of this roadless backcountry habitat, though local BHA members like Bill Sustrich have been advocating for protection of this area since the 70's. As Bill put it in this recent article, “This is something that has to happen, one way or another. I’ve been advocating for protection of this beautiful backcountry habitat since the early 70’s. I’ve watched the proposed area for protection go from 100,000 acres to just over 20,000. There has been plenty of compromise over the years and now is the time to ensure that the incredible fish and game resources on this wild landscape are secured.”
Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) would like to offer our full support of SB 13-175 as currently written, which will permanently reauthorize the Habitat Stamp Program. The Habitat Stamp is a sportsmen-driven program that has protected more than 170,000 acres of habitat from development and which has provided public access to 68,000 acres for hunting and 26 miles of streams for fishing.
As a sportsmen conservation organization dedicated to protecting habitat and sporting opportunities that are free from the noise and disturbance of modern life, Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers recognizes the need for conservation funding programs, like the Habitat Stamp, which provide increasingly essential public access for sportsmen, protect large undisturbed tracts of core habitat where development pressures are greatest and which offers the same level of opportunity, freedom and solitude that Coloradan sportsmen and women have come to know.
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.
In 2006, wildlife officers with the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) identified habitat destruction from OHV over-use and abuse as the number one problem facing wildlife management in the state. In response, the Colorado DOW convened interested parties to address this problem through draft legislation, which gave DOW officers the authority to enforce the Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) regulations on federal lands. This DOW-led proposal corresponded with a change in federal land use regulations, which designated federal lands as “closed unless designated open” to off-route motorized use, rather than “open unless closed.”
Through subsequent discussions between interested parties, which included the OHV community, sportsmen and environmental organizations, a compromise was made and legislation (HB 08-1069) was drafted. In sum, 1069:
Because large portions of Colorado’s federal lands still remain without travel management plans (particularly on BLM landS), officers’ authority to enforce habitat degradation via OHV abuse remains limited. Further, when the legislation was written, the authority provided to officers was purposefully defined as ancillary to their core duties, so as not to pull them away from their primary tasks of wildlife enforcement. Lastly, officers were instructed to educate OHV users with warnings for the first year, rather than fines. In the end, a combination of these limiting factors resulted in relatively few tickets being issued by wildlife officers each year (~20-25).
Nonetheless, wildlife officers acknowledge the value of the enforcement authority provided by 08-1069 and as federal lands continue to adopt new travel management plans, the value of, and need for, this legislation will only become greater. Sportsmen understand that illegal OHV use can ruin hunts, degrade habitat, and jeopardize public opinion of hunters and anglers. Therefore, BHA strongly supports reauthorization of this legislation. Recently, this legislation was introduced as SB 67 and it would:
While permanent reauthorization is clearly a priority, we have some concerns with the following aspects of SB 67
Located just West of Carbondale, Colorado, The Thompson Divide provides one of the largest remaining undeveloped tracts of mid-elevation big game habitat in Colorado and serves as the headwaters to four high-quality trout waters, one of which is a gold medal water.
The Thompson Divide has traditionally been known as a go-to by elk hunters, with over the counter tags offered and harvest rates consistently at, or slightly above, the state average. The area includes prime backcountry habitat with several roadless areas, including the Thompson Creek Roadless Area. Unfortunately, development pressures in the area have grown substantially, threatening the fish and wildlife populations that depend on large tracts of undisturbed habitat.
While elk populations in the Thompson Divide are healthy, Mule Deer populations have declined substantially in recent years as a result of residential development on wintering lands. Oil & Gas development could be the final straw for Mule Deer. In the most recent Data Analysis Unit Plan for the area (GMU’s 43, 47, 471) the Colorado Parks & Wildlife agreed, stating that “gas development in this area is likely to be detrimental to mule deer and other wildlife.”