DOW requests public input | CraigDailyPress.com

DOW requests public input

Guest author

The next three months are crucial for big-game management in the state as the Colorado Division of Wildlife works feverishly to complete its five-year big game plan.
Leading up to the final announcement in November, DOW officials are squeezing every ounce of public input possible from a series of meetings. The next area meeting is from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at the U.S. Forest Service office located at 925 Weiss Drive in Steamboat Springs.
“What we have on the table is just a preliminary draft of the plan,” DOW area wildlife manager Susan Werner said. “This meeting is to give the public the opportunity to look and see if it (the plan) fits what they’re thinking about or if they’d like to see something different than what we have.
“As I told one man recently who feels real strongly about what happens with the hunting season, you have to provide input,” Werner said. “It’s just like voting if you don’t, it’s kind of hard for anybody to hear your viewpoint.”
The information gathered at these public meetings will be forwarded to the members of the state Wildlife Commission when they gather Aug. 12 for a workshop.
“We’re looking at alternatives now. They’ll take this input and give us some direction and then in September they’ll take a look at it a second time. Depending on the input, we may be looking at tweaking what’s already on the table,” Werner said.
The final decision on the hunting season structure for years 2000 through 2004 will be made at the Nov. 18-19 meeting in Denver.
There are many different alternatives on the table right now, Werner said, all of which could have direct impacts on local and non-resident hunters. These could affect hunting dates, length of seasons, whether to have three or four rifle seasons, and what to do with the archery season. For example:
One alternative would reduce the archery season by nine days, starting it late and ending it early.
Another would reduce the archery season to 16 days with unlimited licenses and would then add a limited-license season during the elk rut.
Still another possibility is a 21-day unlimited archery season and then a limited season for nine days during the rut.
As far as the rifle season goes, the division has proposed having four seasons instead of three with the first season being elk only, the second and third being combined deer and elk, and the fourth being limited to deer.
But the future of both forms of hunting and what the regulations governing them will be for the next five years is still up in the air, Werner said.
“I wouldn’t say I have any inclination of what the changes will actually be by the time November comes around,” Werner said.
One proposal would have five days in the first season, five in the second, seven in the third and seven in the fourth. Werner indicated that backers of this plan claim it would not reduce the overall amount of hunting time, just give the animals more of a break between seasons.
“One thing we’ve heard across the state is that the animals need a break. Right now, we hunt them from the end of August to the middle of November and the breaks are only two days long,” Werner said. “Expanding the break, we’re thinking, would allow the animals to settle down a little bit more and hopefully would allow them to return to public land.”
Copies of the plan as it stands are available at the Forest Service office, Moffat County Board of Commissioners office and the DOW office in Meeker.