A contingency of Craig residents scored a victory at the Colorado Wildlife Commission meeting Thursday and Friday.
The Commission was set to decide hunting regulations and policy for the next five years. A large group of business owners, ranchers and sportsmen from Craig was on hand to represent the interests of Northwest Colorado. Their presence had a major effect on the next five-year policy, according to Todd Malmsbury, Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) spokesman.
During the course of the two-day meeting the Wildlife Commission adopted a new season structure that was originally supposed to have an all-draw elk first season, two combined seasons with over-the-counter bull elk tags and limited deer licenses, and a final limited deer season. The people of Northwest Colorado had something to say about those standards, and the fourth season will now have over-the-counter unlimited bull elk licenses offered.
"The one substantial change was in response to the group of people that came down from Craig," said Malmsbury. "The strong showing and clear statements of Northwest Colorado residents clearly had an impact. They made it clear that they have suffered economically because of the limited deer licenses and expressed their concern that limiting the three combined seasons to two may have a detrimental effect on the local economies.
"For that reason, the commission will now include the sale of unlimited bull elk licenses and limited antlerless elk licenses during the fourth season."
Patty Snidow, Craig Chamber of Commerce board member, is proud of the success the group had with influencing the commission to create a more economically-friendly five-year policy.
"People came from different communities from all over the state with the same story," said Snidow. "It was just a real joint effort. There was power in the amount of people that went down from our community that was the amazing thing to be a part of."
As it stands, the big game season structure for the next four years will be: first season from Oct. 14-18 in 2000, only limited elk licenses will be offered; second season will be Oct. 21-27 in 2000 with limited antlerless elk tags and deer licenses and also unlimited over-the-counter bull elk tags offered; third season will run from Nov. 4-10 in 2000 with limited antlerless elk and deer licenses and unlimited over-the-counter bull elk licenses; fourth season will run from Nov. 11-15 in 2000 with limited deer licenses and antlerless elk licenses and unlimited over-the-counter elk licenses available. Season dates for the following four years will be changed so seasons will start on a Saturday.
Jim Simos, owner of Cashway Distributors sporting goods store in Craig, has been involved with the effort to protect the economic interests of hunting-related businesses in Northwest Colorado for some time. He was one of the residents who went to Denver to attend the Wildlife Commission meeting. He is pleased with the Commission's decision to add the third combined season and believes it will improve sales for hunting-related businesses.
"It will make the sales season a little bit longer and it should improve things from this year," said Simos. "I'm really proud of the Craig contingency; they did a great job."
Snidow also said the suggestion was made to the Commission that there should be a three-day hunt only for residents of Moffat County after all of the other seasons were over. While nothing was promised, Snidow believes the Commission was open to the idea.
DOW officials appeared pleased with the new five-year plan, especially with the limited first season elk hunt. According to Malmsbury, the hunt should eliminate complaints people had with overcrowding during the first season and increase hunter success rates since fewer hunters will be less likely to push elk onto private land.