Tom Mikesell doesn't think new hunting license allocation rules will have an immediate effect on Northwest Colorado's economy.
But the owner of M & M Outfitters in Hamilton said the Colorado Wildlife Commission sent a dangerous message Tuesday when the commission cut back the big-game license allocation for out-of-state hunters.
"The decision sends a message that 'we don't want you,'" Mikesell said. "That is sad because we need (out-of-state hunters), and we want them."
The CWC decision means fewer licenses for out-of-state hunters and more for in-state hunters. The CWC is an 11-member board appointed by the governor to set Division of Wildlife regulations and policies.
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 CWC approved Tuesday, 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 65/35.
DOW Spokes--man Tyler Bask--field said that based on the number of licenses allocated last year, the new split will affect only 21 elk licenses in Moffat County's premier units. That means 21 more licenses for in-state hunters and 21 fewer for out-of-state hunters.
Baskfield said the new rules -- which take effect next year -- will affect only about 10 percent of the hunts in Colorado.
"It is real tough for us to look into the future," Baskfield said. "But we're confident it won't have a huge economic impact."
Mikesell said the new rules won't hurt his business because he doesn't guide hunts in units that require more than five preference points. But, he said, in the long run, cutting back on out-of-state licenses will be bad for Northwest Colorado's hunting economy.
"This is our livelihood over here," Mikesell said.
Craig Chamber of Commerce director Annette Gianinetti said last week that out-of-state hunters stay in town an average of seven to 10 days. In-state hunters stay an average of three days.
Mikesell attended the CWC meeting in Salida on Tuesday and testified about the effect changing the licenses allocation would have on Northwest Colorado.
"We didn't go over there to knock the resident hunter," Tom Mikesell said.
He said his goal was to convince the CWC to wait at least a year before making a decision.
Tim Gibbs, director of the Craig/Moffat County Economic Development partnership, also attended the meeting Tuesday. He said he was disappointed by the CWC's decision.
"Without holding any meetings in Northwest Colorado for folks to have their say, it is a difficult pill to swallow," Gibbs said.
Gibbs and Mikesell said the 60/40 split seemed to work fine and didn't need to be changed.
But the DOW and CWC said they made the changes because citizens asked them to.
"This is a direct result of the tremendous amount of public input we received throughout this process," CWC chairman Jeff Crawford said in a statement. "After months of public input and meetings throughout the state, it became clear that there needed to be more opportunity for those who live and hunt in Colorado."
According to a DOW survey conducted last summer, 71 percent of in-state hunters support changing the split to 80/20 statewide.
Ken Fleming has been hunting in Northwest Colorado for more than 45 years. The 62-year-old said Thursday he supports the new license allocation because it will mean more hunting chances for Colorado hunters.
"Our tax dollars and our money support the animals year-round," Fleming said. "We should have the better chance."
Fleming thinks he new split might hurt business, but said he expects the effect will be minimal.
Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or email@example.com.