On November 16, the Colorado Parks & Wildlife Commission approved a resolution expressing support for the acquisition of nearly 13,000 acres of privately owned land for addition to the National Park Service’s Great Sand Dunes National Preserve.
Established by Congress in 2000, the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Act authorized the Department of the Interior to acquire additional lands outside existing boundaries in order to protect one of Colorado’s most unique landscapes.
Since the Park and Preserve were established, elk have sought refuge and established themselves on areas within the National Park, and on adjacent private lands, including the Medano Ranch, resulting in resource damage to the landscape and negative impacts to other wildlife. While the National Park Service is currently in the process of developing an ungulate management plan that seeks to address these impacts, management options within National Park boundaries are limited due to the fact that public hunting is not allowed pursuant to federal law.
In addition, Colorado Parks & Wildlife biologists have noted that the size of the Great Sand Dunes elk herd exceeds the state’s population objectives by many multiples and that this overpopulation represents a significant liability to the state in the form of potential game damage claims. For this reason, the Colorado Parks & Wildlife Commission’s resolution expressed support for managing acquired acreage under jurisdiction of Great Sand Dunes National Preserve where elk could be more effectively managed through establishment of a public hunting program.
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