BHA Illegal Motorized Use Reward: Gunnison Area Hunter Speaks Up to Protect Habitat

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) was recently happy to celebrate the courage and commitment of a local Gunnison hunter (name withheld at his request) who played a crucial role in combating illegal motorized use on Colorado’s public lands. The reporting hunter’s actions not only led to a significant enforcement action but also underscored the vital role of public involvement in conservation efforts.

On April 27, 2024, a local hunter observed an individual operate a yellow motorcycle off Forest Service Road (FSR 787) through a cut in a boundary fence between USFS and BLM lands. FSR 787 is on the Gunnison NF and goes over the Continental Divide onto the Rio Grande NF into Saguache Park. FSR 787 is closed to motorized use seasonally (annually) per travel management and the Motor Vehicle Use Map to prevent damage to the soft roadbed while snow melts and roads dry up. The reporting party contacted U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) Fuller to advise and pass along photos. LEO Fuller arrived in the area to heavy snow falling. LEO Fuller located the suspected party and informed the reason for the contact. The suspected party advised LEO Fuller he rode his motorcycle up to the gate and turned around once they saw the gate was closed.

On April 29, 2024, LEO Fuller patrolled out to the area and off-loaded an ATV. The snow had melted, and LEO Fuller could see the motorcycle tracks in question. The tracks went off route from FSR 787, over a cut barbed wire fence then back onto FSR 787 beyond the closed gates.  LEO Fuller opened the gate, drove the ATV through, locked the gate and followed the tracks for 10.84 miles. After LEO Fuller cleared the area and returned to his office, Officer Fuller contacted the suspected party. The suspected party first apologized to LEO Fuller and admitted they lied to the officer. The suspected party advised they had driven for five hours from their home on the front range and were upset to see the gate closed. LEO Fuller educated the suspected party about strict liability and that the recreational user needs to make attempts to educate themselves of closures, rules/regulations on public lands prior to recreating. LEO Fuller asked the suspected party what they were doing during their visit. The suspected party advised they were hunting coyotes and looking for shed antlers. LEO Fuller verified the small game license and confirmed a rifle in possession. LEO Fuller advised the suspected party that shed antler season is closed west of I-25 until midnight May 1st and that the Gunnison basin has an additional closure period from May 1 – May 15 until after 10:00 AM for the Gunnison sage-grouse.

On May 2, 2024, LEO Fuller met up with the suspected party and issued a violation notice for ‘Unlawfully operating a motor vehicle on Federal public lands while seasonally closed while hunting.’ LEO Fuller advised the suspected party that this is a Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) regulation and comes with a 10-point penalty assessment toward the suspected parties hunting and fishing privileges. The suspected party was remorseful and apologized several times to LEO Fuller. The violation notice was paid in full and forwarded to CPW for the penalty assessment.

In recognition of his efforts, BHA rewarded the reporting hunter from the Illegal Motorized Use Reward Fund. This reward is part of BHA's initiative to encourage public participation in monitoring and reporting illegal off-road activities. BHA understands that while most motorized/OHV users are responsible, the actions of a few can significantly impact the outdoor experience and success rate of hunters and anglers. The reward serves as an incentive for the public to help self-police our precious public lands. In addition, thanks to the generosity of the Colorado Chapter, the rewards for this program are doubled in Colorado.

CO BHA is deeply engaged in local conservation efforts, working closely with the USFS on planning decisions, work projects, and more through initiatives like the Habitat Watch Volunteer Program. The organization encourages everyone to get involved and help support our public lands through reporting of illegal OHV use. With limited federal land management law enforcement officers in Colorado, reports from conscientious citizens like this local hunter are invaluable.  

Remember, every effort counts in the quest to protect and preserve our public lands and wildlife for future generations.

To learn more about how you can get involved with BHA's conservation efforts and to support the OHV Reward Fund, click here.

About Bryan Jones

Chapter Coordinator (CO/WY)