I began the CU Boulder Masters of the Environment program in August 2018 and my search for an interesting and meaningful year-long capstone project began right away. Capstone projects are required for all students in my program and are intended to be “real-world, hands-on, applications-based experiences” that provide professional experience rather than academic research experience as a traditional thesis would. I got in touch with BHA by going to their website and emailing Sawyer- the Collegiate Club Coordinator at that time. After a conversation with him about BHA and his career trajectory, he connected me to Tim Brass, who had lots of ideas for a capstone project.
We decided to focus on developing feasible policy and funding solutions for expanding the public’s access to Colorado state trust land for hunting and angling. Once we formalized our partnership, Brien Webster and Tim Brass were able to share everything they knew and had done so far regarding state trust land access in Colorado. Their background information, institutional knowledge, and connections were invaluable in setting me up to hit the ground running. In March of 2019 I began to attend events and meetings where we thought we could talk to key people about the opportunity to expand the public’s opportunities for hunting and fishing on Colorado state trust lands. I wrote to and spoke to commissioners and journalists; met and talked to the Governor at a Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting; met with state agency decisionmakers; spoke on a panel at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market; published an opinion piece in the Colorado Sun, a BHA blog post, and a Backcountry Journal article; and talked to BHA members at local events.
Colorado BHA has been actively advocating for expanded public access on Colorado state trust land since 2012! In July of 2019 commissioners from the Colorado State Land Board and Colorado Parks and Wildlife agreed to approximately double the amount of acreage leased for sportspersons access under Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Public Access Program. Under the Public Access Program, sportspersons have had access to around 500,000 acres of state trust land for hunting and angling since 1993. By 2021 we’ll have seasonal access to almost 1 million acres. For comparison, Rocky Mountain National Park is about 265,000 acres and Yellowstone National Park is about 2.2 million acres.