Contact: Ellary TuckerWilliams, Rocky Mountain States Senior Coordinator
Why it Matters: Colorado has seen more than its fair share of successful anti-hunting initiatives over the years, but the tides may finally be turning. Backed by notorious anti-hunting and animal rights organizations, the defeat of SB22-031 marks a historic moment in which the Colorado outdoor sporting community said enough is enough. Guised as a bill to “protect” Colorado’s native felines, SB22-031 was nothing more than an attempt to circumvent the authority of Colorado Parks and Wildlife and erode the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.
Senate Bill 22-031 (SB22-031) titled Prohibit Hunting Bobcat Lynx and Mountain Lion went down in flames on Thursday, February 3 after over 200 members of Colorado’s outdoor sporting community peacefully gathered at the state Capitol in opposition of the bill, filling the Committee room and 3 additional overflow rooms. Following a 4-hour committee hearing, the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee (Committee) voted down SB22-031 by a vote of 4-1. This momentous win for Colorado sportspeople and conservation would not have been possible without the collective effort of Colorado’s outdoor sporting community.
As reported previously, if SB22-031 had successfully made it through the legislative process, it would have removed Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s (CPW) management authority over wild felines and ban all legal mountain lion – also known as cougar – and bobcat hunting and trapping in the state.
In response to the seemly relentless attacks on the outdoor sporting community, Colorado hunting, angling, and conservation organizations have joined forces in a new alliance, the Colorado Wildlife Conservation Project (CWCP), for the purpose of providing a unified voice in supporting responsible wildlife management in the state. CWCP hosted a press conference before the Committee hearing, where Colorado Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chairs Senator Dennis Hisey and Representative Perry Will addressed the large crowd of sportspeople who gathered, highlighting the importance of keeping wildlife management with the experts at CPW and out of the legislature. Representatives from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF), Coloradans for Responsible Wildlife Management (CRWM), Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and a former Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commissioner also spoke during the press conference.
In two short weeks, CWCP has garnered the membership of twenty different national, state, and regional wildlife and conservation organizations including CSF, RMEF, CRWM, Safari Club International, National Wildlife Federation, National Wild Turkey Federation, Mule Deer Foundation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Colorado Bowhunters Association, Colorado Trappers and Predator Hunters Association, Colorado Wildlife Federation, Colorado Trout Unlimited and more with room to grow. The alliance collectively represents tens-of-thousands of hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts across the state who support science-based wildlife management. In its first official action, CWCP submitted a coalition letter to the Committee in opposition of SB22-031. Following the press conference, CSF along with numerous private individuals and representatives of several outdoor sporting conservation organizations provided testimony in opposition of the bill.
However, the greatest success of the day, aside from the final Committee vote, was the engagement of Colorado’s sportspeople, both young and old. Notoriously difficult to engage politically, the sheer volume of representation and engagement by sportspeople over SB22-031 did not go unnoticed and was arguably the deciding factor in the day’s victorious outcome. CSF commends everyone who contacted legislators, testified virtually, and showed up in person despite poor driving conditions and below freezing temperatures to support science-based wildlife management by CPW and hunting as a critical conservation tool.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?