Hunting seasons may change

DOW seeks public input on five-year plan

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The Colorado Division of Wildlife is taking another look at the big game season structure and could make changes that will impact the economy in Northwest Colorado.

Cathy Vanatta, executive director of the Craig Chamber of Commerce, is hoping residents, hunters, outfitters and business owners will weigh in with their views at an upcoming public meeting.

The DOW reviews its po-licies in five-year blocks.

The current dialogue will discuss changes for the 2005-2009 hunting seasons. Before it makes any firm decisions, the DOW will review the proposed changes and gather public feedback at a series of forums.

The first in the series will be held Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Kilowatt Corner in Meeker.

Vanatta said it's important for anyone who might be affected by new hunting season regulations to participate in the dialogue.

"We need to attend the meeting to let them know the impact the policies could have," Vanatta said.

Vanatta is concerned the DOW might limit the number of licenses issued to out-of-state hunters or restrict over-the-counter license sales. Either measure could hurt local businesses that look to hunting season for much of their revenue.

Cashway Distributors sells hunting licenses, guns, knives and other hunting accessories in Craig.

Owner Jim Simos said hunters from across the country visit his store each fall. Those droves of hunters and the dollars they represent are very important to Simos.

Currently, the DOW allocates 60 percent of its draw licenses to resident hunters. One proposed change for the next five-year season structure is to raise that percentage to 80. It could mean that fewer nonresident hunters come to Craig.

The proposal is not popular with Simos.

"Out-of-state numbers, they mean everything to me," Simos said.

"I'm the No. 1 license seller in the state of Colorado dollarwise," Simos said. Cashway was a pilot store for the DOW's computerized license sales system that rolled out in 2003. Instead of employing four of his staff to hand-write licenses, the store now uses two computer terminals.

Hunters come to Cashway to buy over-the-counter licenses, but that's not all they buy. Getting the customers in the store to see the other merchandise is a key business strategy, Simos said.

Dan Prenzlow is the area wildlife manager for the region that includes Moffat County and parts of neighboring counties. Prenzlow encouraged residents, hunters, landowners and business representatives to attend the meeting.

"Local communities have a say" in DOW policies, Prenzlow said.

This first meeting will outline the DOW's proposals in a menu-like style. Each section on the season structure is followed by a list of choices, with one choice being to leave things as they are.

The proposal has nine sections and numerous subsections, which reflects the complexity of the DOW's management responsibilities. The DOW must find a compromise between the interests of numerous groups, as well as the biological requirements of the animals.

Vanatta said she appreciates the difficulty the DOW faces and she knows it can't bow to everyone's wishes. But she hopes local interests can sway officials to consider the economic impacts of their decisions.

"I look at the economics of it," Vanatta said.

She hopes officials can find a way to accomplish wildlife management goals, "in a way that won't devastate our economy here."

People don't need to show up ranting and raving, but they need to show up, Vanatta said.

"We need to make sure we have as many people as we can at in Meeker on the eleventh," Vanatta said. "The more voices they hear, the better chance it will impact their decisions."

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com

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