Residents poured into Shadow Mountain Club--house Nov. 29 to discuss the Colorado Division of Wildlife's decision to give fewer hunting licenses to out-of-state hunters.
The number of people in attendance far exceeded that of most public meetings, showing just how important this issue is to Northwest Colorado.
But it was almost too little, too late.
The division made its decision in October, pressing forward with the plan despite outcry from the Western Slope.
There are many people who believe the division caved to pressure from the heavily populated Eastern Slope and discounted the input from people who live and work in the areas affected.
But residents are being provided another chance to state their cases. For that, we can thank Rep. Al White and Sen. Jack Taylor. After hearing from area residents last week, White said he'd like to see the division take another look at the changes.
The new rules, slated to go into effect in 2006, mean fewer licenses for out-of-state hunters and more for in-state hunters.
Business leaders and outfitters say cutting back on out-of-state licenses will hurt Northwest Colorado's economy.
But in-state hunters contend they deserve a better chance to hunt big game in Colorado.
Under the old rules, in-state hunters were given 60 percent of big-game licenses in the statewide general draw. Out-of-state hunters were given 40 percent.
Under the rules the commission approved last month, in-state hunters will receive 80 percent of the licenses in premier hunting units. Premier hunting units require five or more preference points for an in-state hunter to draw a tag.
Out-of-state hunters will receive 20 percent of the licenses in premier units.
In units that require four or fewer points, the new split is 65 percent to 35 percent.
Statewide, the new rules will affect an estimated 820 licenses, division spokesman Randy Hampton said.
The division estimates the new rules will cost businesses in Moffat, Routt and Rio Blanco counties a total of $162,000 in revenue next year.
Those who attended last week's meeting said that isn't a significant amount of money, but are concerned about what will happen down the road as pressure from in-state hunters continues to mount.
The only way to make change is to be educated and to participate. We commend those who attended the Nov. 29 meeting and urge residents to stay informed about the division's plans.
We also urge residents to take advantage of the opportunity White is providing. Attend meetings, speak out and write letters. State leaders and division officials are paying attention -- give them something to hear.