The Colorado Wildlife Commission has revised regulations that require ponds, lakes and reservoirs in the Colorado River Drainage to have dikes or screens. The action is an attempt to prevent exotic fish from escaping into the river where they could prey on endangered native fish species.
All waters under 6,500 feet elevation in the Colorado River basin are covered by the new regulations.
The goal is to prevent exotic fish such as bass, bluegills, crappie and grass carp from escaping and preying on such native Colorado River fish as the humpback chub, razorback sucker, bonytail chub and pikeminnow. Colorado is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect remaining populations of these native fish, restore and enhance existing habitat and raise more fish in federal and state hatcheries to restock the species into their native waters.
The regulations require that dikes on ponds, lakes and reservoirs within the 50-year flood plain be at least five feet above the ordinary high water line and engineered to withstand a 50-year flood. If a screen is required to keep fish from escaping from a pond or reservoir, the gap size on the screen must not exceed one-quarter inch.
The regulation becomes effective May 1.
In other action, the Commission also approved regulations for implementation of the agency's successful Ranching for Wildlife program that encourages private landowners to mange their properties to enhance wildlife habitat and allow public hunters access to the land.
"The regulation allows the director to administer the program, including enrollment standards and setting season dates and the number and allocation of public and private licenses," explained Kathi Green, the Division's regulations manager. Until now, such changes had to be approved by Commission action, making it difficult to make minor adjustments in regulations and sometimes forcing the cancellation of seasons on some properties.
The Ranching for Wildlife program sets aside a specific number of big game licenses that are valid on private ranches that have at least 12,000 contiguous acres of land. Ranch owners are provided with a number of licenses that they may designate for sale to hunters of their choosing. In return, the ranch agrees to follow a management plan and allow a specific number of public hunters onto the property. The licenses are issued through the Division's limited license application process.
There are currently 1.1 million acres of land on 26 ranches enrolled in Colorado, and more than 2,000 public licenses are available through the limited license application process this year. The program has been so successful that it has been emulated by other states. (Submitted by the Colorado Division of Wildlife.)