The Ranching for Wildlife program should continue. The program was begun in 1985 and was designed to encourage large landowners to manage their lands for the benefit of wildlife. The program has helped to open some private lands to public hunting.
The Colorado Wildlife Commission has limited the Ranching for Wildlife licenses to residents only as an effort to balance the resident and non-resident hunting opportunities.
I do feel the program has its definite advantages and does help manage the large elk herds in Northwest Colorado. However, it may need to be tweaked. There is concern about the elk herds moving onto private land during the major rifle seasons and having no pressure on them to drive them back onto public lands.
So, as with any program, the Ranching for Wildlife program needs to be monitored and adjusted according to what the data shows.
As a rancher's daughter and the wife and sister of Colorado hunters, I can see both sides to this issue.
The big problem here seems to be the flexible 90 day hunting the landowners can utilize for hunting on their property. There should be a compromise there somewhere.
I have witnessed first-hand the destruction of haystacks from elk. Most ranchers can't afford for their winter hay to be destroyed by a herd of elk, and the truth is the elk in question don't just do this during the regular hunting season. They are sneaky little devils and they will do this before and after the state mandated hunting seasons. This could make a rancher want to declare war, and when do you fight a war ... when the enemy is at hand is convenient.
There are also the frustrations of the average hunter when they see the prize, but can't shoot it because it is on the wrong side of the fence. This has the potential of having a lot of out-of-state hunters picking a more user-friendly part of the state for their next trip for big game. We not only don't cull the herds if that happens, but Moffat County could lose a lot of needed revenue.
Why can't it be mandated that 60 of those 90 days have to coincide with the rifle season, and the other 30 days can be at the discretion of the landowner in agreement with the Division of Wildlife?
It was a good idea to have this program, but there is no reason that it can't be modified to accommodate everyone.