Locals oppose new hunting license rules

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Some locals are in an uproar about possible changes to the way hunting licenses are distributed to out-of-state hunters.

The changes, which the Colorado Wildlife Commission will vote on at a meeting next week in Salida, could mean fewer licenses for out-of-state hunters and more for Colorado hunters.

If the CWC goes with recommendations from the Division of Wildlife, in premier units such as those in Northwest Colorado, 80 percent of the licenses in the general draw would go to in-state hunters and 20 percent to out-of-state hunters. The current split is 60/40.

But some in the local business community say decreasing the number of licenses to out-of-state hunters would hurt businesses in Northwest Colorado.

"Who spends the money when they come out here?" asked Craig Mayor Don Jones. "The guy from Texas, not the guy from Denver."

Jones runs a game processing business in Craig and said about 80 percent of his business is from out-of-state hunters.

Annette Gianinetti, director of the Craig Chamber of Commerce, said in-state hunters stay in town for an average of three days. Out-of-state hunters, Gianinetti said, stay for seven to 10 days.

"That would mean a huge decrease in revenue for the county," Gianinetti said of the possible changes.

Under the current license allocation system, in-state hunters get 60 percent of the available licenses in the general draw, and out-of-state hunters get 40 percent.

DOW formed a working group in the spring to look at how licenses are allocated.

The group recommended that the state be broken into three regions. In the region east of Interstate 25, in-state hunters would get 85 percent of the licenses after the draw. In the state's premier units -- all of which are at least partially in Moffat County -- the split would be 75/25. In the rest of the state, the split would be 67/33.

DOW held public meetings during the summer to discuss the recommendations and get public input.

After the meetings, DOW staff made their own recommendations. The DOW recommendations are based, in part, on surveys hunters filled out at the meetings last summer.

The DOW recommended that the Colorado Wildlife Commission give 65 percent of licenses in the draw to in-state hunters and 35 percent to out-of-state hunters. In units that require five or more preference points, DOW recommends the split be 80/20.

In Moffat County, about half of the hunting units require five or more preference points.

Outfitters in particular oppose cutting back out-of-state licenses.

Tom Mikesell of M and M Outfitters in Hamilton said 100 percent of his clients come from out-of-state.

"They spend the bucks and that's what's good for our economy," Mikesell said. "The 60/40 split is good for us and good for our economy."

Mikesell is hoping to drum up support from local business owners to lobby the CWC to keep the 60/40 split.

He hopes the CWC waits a year before making a decision so they can come to Northwest Colorado to consult with local business owners.

"This is where the impact is," he said, "We need all the non-resident licenses we can get."

But some Colorado hunters want an even higher allocation to in-state hunters.

Dick Steele of Delta said the DOW and the working group's recommendations are unacceptable for in-state hunters.

Steele served on the working group and works with a variety of sportsmen's advocacy groups.

Under the current rules, landowners get 15 percent of the available licenses before the draw, which they commonly sell at premium prices. That means in the draw, Colorado hunters actually get 51 percent of the total licenses.

The DOW staff recommendation would give in-state hunters 55 percent of the total and 68 percent in premier units.

Steele said he would like to see in-state hunters get 60 percent of the total and 80 percent in premier units.

"Even that is a better deal than they are getting in the rest of the West," Steele said.

Other states, including Utah and Wyoming, give 80 percent or more to in-state hunters, Steele said.

DOW spokesman Randy Hampton said the CWC could make a decision that differs from the recommendations of the working group and DOW.

"The wildlife commission ultimately makes the decision," he said.

Hampton said coming up with new allocation rules is difficult because every group wants more licenses and there is only a finite number available.

"Anytime we give to someone, someone else gets less," he said.

Hampton said citizens can still comment to the CWC about the allocation, but the sooner they comment the better.

Comments can be sent to wildlife.comm@state.co.us.

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

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