House Bill 1098 has passed the Colorado Senate and House and is now before the Senate Agriculture Committee. If approved, it will allow private landowners with 160 acres or more to be eligible for more big game hunting licenses.
The bill states: "The wildlife resources of the state are in danger of decline from increasing population pressures and loss of habitat. In order to encourage private landowners to provide upgraded habitat for wildlife, ... the general assembly finds it necessary to provide an incentive-based system to landowners to provide upgraded habitat for wildlife through a hunting licenses allocation program that allows hunters access to wildlife under the cooperative control of the private landowner."
The bill changed on its way through the House. According to Tim Pollard, assistant director of the Department of Natural Resources, the largest change is the allocated licenses for this program will come from the 15 percent of licenses already established for the private landowner in limited license units.
"It has been through a lot of drafts," said Pollard. "Before this program was going to allot licenses in addition to the 15 percent already allotted to private landowners, now we're not going to go out of that 15 percent cap."
A property owner who has the recorded deed to 160 acres or more is eligible for the licenses. The more land landowners have, the more licenses they are eligible for. According to the bill, the number of licenses will also be based on the benefit to wildlife the land provides. Applicants in this program will receive first priority for 15 percent of the licenses in limited license units.
The program only establishes licenses for deer, elk and antelope unless the Colorado Wildlife Commission establishes otherwise.
"The commission can go through a planning process and authorize licenses for other species if it is required for beneficial game management," said Pollard.
The bill establishes that people who own 160 acres to 639 acres and participate in the program will receive one license application. Owners of 640 acres to 1,199 acres will receive two license applications. Owners of 1,200 acres to 2,399 acres are eligible for three applications. Owners of 2,400 acres to 3,999 acres are eligible for four applications. For each additional 1,000 acres, an additional application will be allotted up to a maximum of six applications for landowners who own 6,000 acres or more.
The Wildlife Commission may rule that landowners who provide valuable game habitat will receive additional applications to achieve game management objectives.
Landowners who are successful at obtaining licenses will receive a voucher that may be transferred to any person who is eligible for a big game license. The bill states that hunting seasons for male licenses issued under this program will be concurrent with public hunting seasons or if otherwise designated by the Wildlife Commission to reach game management objectives.
According to the bill, for the purpose of antlerless management, the Wildlife Commission may require as a condition to participating in the program that landowners allow hunting on their land by properly licensed hunters for that species that male licenses were issued. This will be based upon obtaining male/female ratios. These hunts will be conducted in a separate season and the landowner will not be allowed to charge more than $25 to participate in these hunts.
If passed by the Agriculture Committee and signed as law, the earliest this bill will be implemented into the hunting regulations is July 1, 2001.
"I believe that it has a good chance of passing," said Pollard. "The House Agriculture Committee passed it unanimously."