License to debate

Business owners, officials to discuss hunting rules

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Local hunters and business leaders on Tuesday will get to take a few shots at new, big-game hunting license rules they say could harm tourism and the regional economy.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife, State Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park, and Wildlife Commissioner Tom Burke will host a joint meeting in Craig to discuss changes to hunting license allocations.

The public meeting is 2 p.m. Tuesday at Shadow Mountain Clubhouse, 1055 Moffat Coun--ty Road 7.

The Colorado Wildlife Commission approved new hunting license allocation rules in October that mean more licenses for in-state hunters and fewer for out-of-state hunters.

Some business leaders in Northwest Colorado say the new rules will hurt the region's economy. But advocates for in-state hunters say the new rules are necessary to give Colorado hunters better access to game.

The rules already are finalized, division spokesman Randy Hampton said.

But division officials said they want to give local residents a chance to discuss the rules and provide feedback for the future.

White called for the meeting with the division and the wildlife commission after hearing from some constituents in Northwest Colorado who said they were concerned about the new rules.

Most of the people who contacted White about the new rules were outfitters, he said.

But as the representative for six Northwest Colorado counties, including Moffat County, White said he wants to clear up what the new rules mean for everyone in the region.

"I want to make sure everybody has, if not a level of comfort, at least we understand why we're uncomfortable," he said.

White said he has not taken a position on the new rules.

Under the Division of Wild--life's old rules, in-state hunters were given 60 percent of big-game licenses in the general draw.

Out-of-state hunters were given 40 percent. The old rules applied to the whole state.

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.

The new rules will only affect about 20 licenses in Moffat County and about 10 percent of the hunts in Colorado, Division of Wildlife officials say.

Some business owners say that although the rules won't produce immediate or drastic consequences, the changes eventually could harm tourism.

"We're concerned about how this is going to affect tourism," said Annette Gianinetti, director of the Craig Chamber of Commerce.

The commission could decide in the future to give even more licenses to in-state hunters at the expense of out-of-state hunters, she said.

Tom Mikesell, owner of M and M Outfitters in Hamilton, said the out-of-state hunters are crucial to the region's economy. Eventually, fewer licenses for out-of-state hunters will hurt the region, he said.

Mikesell said he hopes local business leaders attend the meeting to voice their concerns.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com.

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