Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced in May that its Public Access Program would be increasing in 2020 by 206,520 acres, providing even more seasonal hunting and fishing opportunities on Colorado trust land across the state.
Of those 206,520 acres, roughly 25,575 acres were added in Moffat County, making up roughly 12% of added acreage across Colorado.
Acreage was added in places such as Baking Powder Ridge (506 acres), Big Hole Butte (640 acres), Big Hole Gulch (3,048 acres), Middle Wolf Creek (640 acres), North Scandinavian Gulch (280 acres), Juniper Hot Springs (493 acres), and Winter Valley Gulch (640 acres), to name a few.
In total, 39 areas within Moffat County were deemed seasonal hunting and fishing acreage under the Public Access Program.
The locations of these new properties are available to view in CPW’s 2020 Colorado State Recreation Lands brochure, which has has been published. Readers can also view the Public Access Program properties added this year by looking for the red “NEW” tag in front of the property name. Another resource is the Colorado Hunting Atlas, an interactive map that depicts all trust land enrolled in the Public Access Program.
A commitment to increasing access
On July 18, 2019, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission unanimously approved a multi-year expansion of the Public Access Program that added 77,182 acres to the existing 465,000 acres in the program, bringing the total to more than half a million acres. This year’s 206,520-acre addition brings the total to 774,000 acres, a 66% increase over the last two years. CPW’s goal is to reach one million acres by the 2021 hunting season.
“Colorado’s outdoor spaces are more important now than ever before, and part of why so many people love our great state. Increasing access to Colorado’s lands is a priority of my administration. Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Public Access Program for sportsmen and women is growing, and this expansion will provide more opportunities for Coloradans to hunt and fish,” said Governor Polis. “We will continue looking at more opportunities to increase access to our amazing outdoor areas for Coloradans.”
Prior to this expansion, the majority of properties enrolled in the Public Access Program were located in northwestern Colorado where there is prime big game hunting. CPW is providing a broader array of hunting opportunities on trust lands by expanding the program in eastern Colorado where bird hunting and small game hunting is prevalent. More than 163,000 acres of the 2020 property additions are east of I-25.
Colorado spans 66.6 million acres and 23 million acres of public land is available for hunting, according to CPW. Additionally, three million acres of land in Colorado are called trust lands and have been held in a trust since statehood in 1876 for the purpose of funding public schools. The State Land Board earns money for schools from trust lands by leasing the land for a variety of purposes, including hunting and recreation. Ninety-eight percent of trust land is leased for agriculture. More than one-third will be enrolled in the Public Access Program by the end of 2021.
The Public Access Program is a lease agreement between the State Land Board and CPW. Public access for wildlife-related recreation on trust lands is made possible by the license purchases of hunters and anglers. CPW will fund the new acreage opened to public access through hunting and fishing license fee increases approved by the General Assembly in 2018 in the “Future Generations Act.” In total, trust land leases have earned $2 billion for Colorado public schools in the past 15 years and have been the primary funding source for the Department of Education’s Building Excellent Schools Today program, according to CPW.
“Hunters and anglers are a critical foundation to wildlife conservation,” said Dan Prenzlow, CPW Director. “They make significant contributions to our local economy, especially rural economies. It’s an added benefit that our Public Access Program helps fund Colorado school kids.”
Trust lands enrolled in the Public Access Program are open to a variety of wildlife-related uses, primarily hunting and fishing. Nearly all of the properties enrolled in the Public Access Program are also working ranches leased for agriculture, and hunters are expected to respect the existing agriculture operations. For hunter safety, wildlife protection, and the integrity of the land, the public must follow the rules and regulations at each property enrolled in the program, CPW said.
Unauthorized activity on trust lands is subject to enforcement. Hunters and anglers must check the rules and regulations for each property enrolled in the program; timing and use restrictions vary.
For more information on CPW’s Public Access Program, please visit https://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/Pages/StateTrustLands.aspx