David Lien: Let’s make lands more accessible
For years hunters and anglers have been working to enhance public hunting and fishing access on Colorado’s state trust lands and more than 3,300 sportsmen have signed a Backcountry Hunters & Anglers petition asking our decision-makers to make more state lands accessible. Colorado remains the only Western state that excludes the public from accessing the majority of its state lands.
The state of Colorado currently provides public hunting and fishing access on a mere 16% of its state trust lands, or approximately 500,000 of 3 million acres. This represents the lowest level of public access offered on state trust land in any state in the West. Of the other 84%, much of the best hunting and fishing is leased to the highest bidder for exclusive recreational access, locking out most sportsmen and women.
State lands were set aside for a specific purpose — to generate reasonable and consistent revenue for the support of Colorado public institutions. We believe that the expansion of recreational access on state trust lands will not only benefit hunters and anglers but that it can strengthen funding for the state. It’s important to note that access to state lands is dynamic and that we can lose access as current recreation leases expire. Some 30,000 recreation lease acres are set to expire by September 2019.
As hunting and fishing access is increasingly controlled by the wealthy and well-connected, public access only becomes more important. Lack of public access is the No. 1 reason hunters cite for giving up their sporting traditions. We can help reverse this trend by working to ensure that those of us who hunt and fish always have a place to recreate.
Thankfully, Governor Jared Polis heard our call loud and clear and has committed to securing public access to at least 100,000 acres of state trust land in 2019 — and hopefully much more in the future. Colorado’s hunters and anglers thank you, Gov. Polis!
David A. Lien, co-chair of Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers