Ranching for Wildlife undergoing changes

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In its 20-plus-year history, Ranching for Wildlife has been one of the state's more controversial hunting programs.

But this year, the Colorado Division of Wildlife unveiled changes to Ranching for Wildlife that it hopes will quell some of the criticisms lobbed at the program.

The RFW program gives landowners with more than 12,000 acres flexible and longer hunting seasons and guarantees licenses in exchange for managing their land for the benefit of wildlife. Landowners also have to keep a portion of their land open for public hunting.

The program has been under fire from RFW neighbors and sportsmen who say it provides undue benefits to private landowners at the expense of public hunting.

Under the new RFW rules, private landowners will get to keep a smaller percentage of male elk and deer licenses allocated for their land.

The old rules gave landowners 90 percent of the licenses and the other 10 percent went to the public.

Landowners commonly sell their licenses to hunters.

Now, landowners will receive 80 percent of the licenses. Landowners can receive up to 90 percent if they meet specific DOW requirements, including providing better public hunting access, improving wildlife habitat and helping the DOW reach herd objectives.
All female licenses will go to the public under the new rules.

Critics of the program say the new rules are a step in the right direction, but they don't go far enough.

RFW ranchers say although the program has its critics, it still provides some of the best hunting opportunities in the state.

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