Rick Seymour: Game management plays major role
When it comes to mule deer and elk country, it’s hard to beat Northwest Colorado. Some of the most coveted units in the country are here, and as a resident and sportsmen, I want to see that it stays this way. How we manage wildlife and the landscape they are a part of plays a big role to their health, numbers, and the future of our hunting traditions. This is true in Northwest Colorado, and it’s true throughout the West. Quality, unfragmented habitat is key to this equation, and I believe it’s incumbent upon us, as sportsmen and residents, to support management decisions that protect it.
This is why I believe the Bureau of Land Management’s White River Field Office is doing the right thing by trying to protect a few remaining blocks of unroaded and unfragmented habitat by designating a small percentage of the field office as closed to motorized vehicles. Places like Big Ridge, Moosehead Mountain, and Pike Ridge provide quality habitat for the elk and mule deer that make the White River area famous among sportsmen. These places are the exception, not the norm, and they provide exceptional habitat that benefits wildlife and sportsmen, largely because they are unroaded.
BLM’s efforts to preserve the status quo in this regard should be commended. Investing in the unroaded and unfragmented areas we’ve got left is good for wildlife, and it’s crucial to the future of our hunting traditions. We cannot afford to endlessly punch holes in and chip away at critical mule deer and elk habitat, and we shouldn’t expect the numbers to be there if we do. This fact is gaining momentum with land managers, states, game and fish agencies, and the Department of the Interior, with Secretarial Order 3362 — Improving Habitat Quality in Western Big-Game Winter Range and Migration Corridors, being an example.
As sportsmen, we need to be thinking in terms of generations about what we need to do now to ensure this exists 20 years from now. We need to support land use decision making and conservation efforts that protect critical habitat, and we need to take our seat at the table and advocate for our traditions and the interests of wildlife.
Sportsmen contribute $2.8 billion per year to the Colorado economy; we have a strong voice, and we can do more to conserve wildlife resources and shape public land decision making that, in turn, will shape the future of our hunting traditions. The BLM’s Travel Management Plan is an example of this, and it’s a step in the right direction, but this process is far from over, and we will have to continue to pay attention and advocate for our interest in the days, months, and years to come.