Spring 2023 CO BHA Newsletter

“Spring, in addition to many other things, is a time for renewal of memories that may have grown dim during the winter.” – Sigurd F. Olson, Wilderness Days

 As the days grow longer and the weather begins to warm, many of us are looking forward to renewing memories—perhaps of a favorite stretch of stream, a special campsite, or that secret turkey hideout.

We’re also gearing up for a busy stewardship season, with projects to improve wildlife habitat in the works all across the state. And we’ll be kicking it all off with what we hope to be our biggest event ever: a weekend-long bash in Gunnison to celebrate Colorado Public Lands Day, May 19-21. You can find all the details below.

We hope you’ll find time to make some new memories with Backcountry Hunters & Anglers in the coming months. The strength of BHA has always been the dedication and commitment of its grassroots members—folks like you. Join us in the coming months for some boots-on-the-ground conservation work!

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Chapter News

Join us for Beer, Bands & Barbed Wire Strands

Do you like amazing food and drink? Toe-tapping local music? A chance to win great gear from the best outdoor brands? Having fun with like-minded conservationists? Giving back to our public lands?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, plan to be in Gunnison May 19-21.

To celebrate Colorado Public Lands Day we’ll be removing miles of fencing to improve habitat for local wildlife. But it’s not all hard work. It’s a weekend-long festival featuring music, food, sweepstakes, bonfires, camping, and more. There’ll be lots of activities for kids, too, so bring the whole family!

Click here for more details and sign up to volunteer or buy tickets. The first 75 people to buy weekend tickets will be entered in to win a Burris Optics Fullfield IV 4-16x50 scope!

Colorado BHA co-chair honored for conservation work

Chapter co-chair Don Holmstrom was honored with the Sigurd F. Olson Award at the 2023 BHA North American Rendezvous, held in Missoula in March. The Olson Award recognizes outstanding contributions to the conservation of rivers, lakes, or wetland habitat. Don has been a longtime advocate for stream access and habitat protection issues in Colorado. He leads Colorado BHA’s Stream Access Initiative, and is spearheading the chapter’s efforts in support of a critical legal challenge that could dramatically strengthen stream access in the state. 

You can read more about Don’s work here.

Thank you, Don, for defending our public waters access rights in Colorado! Wild lands and wildlife need many more like you.

In addition to Don, Colorado was well represented at the North American Rendezvous. Our own Leslie Kaminski was a featured chef at the annual Field-to-Table dinner, preparing dessert for nearly 100 attendees.

Chapter leadership changes

Colorado BHA recently said farewell to one of its driving forces. Brien Webster is taking on an exciting new opportunity and is no longer serving as program coordinator for the Colorado and Wyoming chapters. Brien, affectionately referred to as “an army of one,” was at the center of nearly every effort made by Colorado BHA to defend public lands and wildlife, and he will be greatly missed. Tremendous thanks to Brien for his massive contributions over many years! We wish him the best of luck in his new endeavor.

We are looking to fill the chapter coordinator position. If you think you or someone you know might be a good fit, you can learn more here: BHA Colorado & Wyoming Coordinator.

A great day on the (frozen) water

BHA’s Central Mountains group and Alpine Fishing Adventures hosted a fun day of ice fishing on Lake Dillon in Summit County. 

Randy Ford, owner of Alpine Fishing Adventures, and his guides Jeremy Bernardelli, Ken Ogren, and Rachel Errthum, provided tents, heaters, equipment, and most importantly ice fishing know-how to BHA members and kids. While BHA members were fishing, local chapter leaders David Brown and Nick Alfieri grilled elk smash burgers (a fall harvest), brats, and hotdogs for the 40+ attendees. Guest appearances were made by Colorado Parks & Wildlife, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and a local fox named Foxy Jig who frequents the area. 

It was a great time spent fishing and discussing conservation and advocacy issues, including bag limits to protect mature/larger naturally-reproducing fish, the protection of spawning areas, and the importance of becoming a voice to government agencies. We hope to see everyone on the water again soon!

Colorado Policy Updates

Court date approaches for key stream access case

In early 2022, the Colorado Court of Appeals decision in Hill v. Warsewa delivered a stinging rebuke to powerful interests and the State Attorney General by paving the way for public access to Colorado streams flowing through private land that were navigable at the time of statehood. Now that decision is headed to the Colorado Supreme Court, with oral arguments scheduled for Tuesday, May 2. A win in the appeal would allow Mr. Hill to go back to a trial court to establish navigability and consequently the ownership of the streambed by Colorado. BHA has signed on to an amicus brief in Mr. Hill’s litigation.

“Colorado has the worst stream access laws of any Western state. Colorado, despite its reputation for outdoor recreational opportunities, has failed to implement the well-established federal legal doctrine of ‘navigability for title,’” Colorado BHA co-chair Don Holmstrom explained. “This test—well-recognized by the US Supreme Court—established rivers that were commercially navigable or susceptible to navigability at the time of statehood must be held in trust for the use and enjoyment of the public. This includes essential fishing activities such as floating and wading. Nearly all Western states, including Arizona and Utah, have applied greater public access under this doctrine.”

Working on corner crossing clarity in Colorado

Securing access for all to our shared public lands is a cornerstone of BHA’s mission. Even as an important Wyoming “corner crossing” case makes its way through the legal system, Colorado BHA has been engaged and continues to monitor proposed legislation that would clarify the issue in the state (HB23-1066). You can read more about BHA’s position on this evolving bill here. And BHA’s work on the broader corner crossing issue was recently featured in E&E News, a widely-respected media outlet for energy and environmental issues: “Four hunters, a ladder and a fight over federal land.”

(If you’re asking yourself, “What the heck is corner crossing?,” here’s a video explainer with BHA Board member Ryan Callaghan: Corner Crossing Explained.)

Get involved with CPW’s Regional Partnership program

The Colorado Outdoor Partnership program has established 14 regional partnerships across the state, which play an important role in balancing recreation and conservation programs in Colorado. You can explore the map of Colorado Outdoor Regional Partnerships and learn more about the program. Central West Slope Regional Director Craig Grother currently serves on the Ouray Regional Recreation and Conservation Alliance (ORRCA) Regional Partnership. If you’re interested in getting involved in any of the regional partnerships, contact Craig at [email protected].

Federal legislation aims to protect the Dolores River

In March, Senator Bennet (D-CO) reintroduced the Dolores River National Conservation Area and Special Management Area Act (S. 636). This legislation would benefit hunters and anglers by conserving habitat for native fish and wildlife in Southwest Colorado, in addition to improving recreation opportunities on our public lands and waters. The establishment of the Dolores River National Conservation Area and Dolores River Special Management Area would conserve a total of 68,000 acres of public lands and waters. More details can be found here. In the 117th Congress, a companion bill was led by Representative Boebert (R-CO) in the House.

Upcoming Events

If you don’t get enough of the beautiful Gunnison Country during May’s Colorado Public Lands Day event, come out to the 2023 Colorado BHA Rendezvous, June 9-11, 2023 at the Soap Creek Corral/Coal Mesa Horse Camp just west of Gunnison off Hwy 50. Learn more here: https://www.backcountryhunters.org/2023_colorado_rendezvous.

We’re preparing for a busy season of stewardship projects, and we encourage members to get involved. For an up-to-date list of all upcoming events, including pint nights and stewardship opportunities, see: https://www.backcountryhunters.org/co_upcoming_events.

In case you missed it

Colorado BHA co-chair David Lien appeared in the 2023 Colorado Big Game brochure with the beautiful bull he took in the San Juan’s last season (page 4). You can read all about David’s over-the-counter public lands elk hunt here: Colorado Over-the-Counter Unit Elk Hunting. And a reminder: big game primary draw applications are due April 4!

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