The Battle Begins Over Colorado’s Big Game License Allocation

Contact: Ellary TuckerWilliams, Rocky Mountain States, Assistant Manager

  • The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission is considering amending the current practices and regulations related to license allocations for big game species, as well as the subsequent application of preference points for draw opportunities.
  • Any discussions related to changes in the license allocation formulas as well as preference points must be approached from a holistic perspective and address all factors necessary to achieve an ecologically balanced and financially sustainable program with increased hunter satisfaction moving forward.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF) along with ten other members of the Colorado Wildlife Conservation Partnership, submitted a letter to the CPW Commission to ensure that the management of Colorado’s fish and wildlife remains within CPW and the Commission and to avoid any reactive changes at the legislature to address this complex issue.

Why It Matters: Colorado has a supply and demand problem when it comes to big game hunting opportunity with a record-high of 685,000 applications for Colorado big game hunting were submitted in 2021. The largest source of funding for Colorado’s Wildlife Operations is the Wildlife Cash Fund, which receives most of its revenue from hunting and fishing license sales. In FY 2019-20, license sales to non-residents made up the majority of the revenue, representing only about 31.6% of all licenses sold and over 65.8% of total revenue. It is critical that any discussions related to changes in big game license allocation fully comprehend and address the social, biological, and financial factors before seeking amendments to the status quo.

In 2021, CSF submitted a letter in opposition of Colorado Senate Bill 150 - Reserve Big Game Hunting Licenses for Residents (SB 150) on the grounds that it would circumvent the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Commission’s purpose and its responsibility towards science-based wildlife management. While CSF recognized the challenge of meeting the needs of both resident and non-resident hunters, there was significant concerned that without a detailed plan to replace lost revenue if SB 150 were to pass, Colorado and its public trust wildlife resources will ultimately suffer. SB 150 ultimately died in Committee, but there was an understanding that the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission must address the concerns of resident vs non-resident license allocation, otherwise the legislature would likely take up the issue yet again in coming sessions.

Fast forward to today, and the CPW Commission is making true on its promise to consider amending the current practices and regulations regarding license allocations for big game species, as well as the subsequent application of preference points for draw opportunities. CSF, along with ten other members of the Colorado Wildlife Conservation Partnership, submitted a letter to the CPW Commission, requesting that they approach discussions related to changes in the license allocation formulas as well as preference points through a holistic perspective and address all factors necessary to achieve an ecologically balanced and financially sustainable program with increased hunter satisfaction moving forward. As CPW and the Commission strive to balance the interest of various stakeholder groups, it is important that those solutions do not come at the expense of big game resources.

CSF and it partners within CWCP are committed to ensuring that the management and administration of fish and wildlife policies, and hunting and angling opportunities in the state continues to be conducted by CPW. The goal is to avoid any reactive changes at the legislature to address single components of this complex larger issue, as they are prone to misguided approaches and unintended consequences. The primary purpose of the letter was to ensure that the CPW Commission retains its decision-making authority and that CPW has a publicly supported strategy for moving forward to address these concerns.

The CPW Commission is tasked with setting regulations and policies for Colorado’s wildlife programs utilizing the best available science and management methods while providing ample opportunity for public engagement. Wildlife management decisions must be left to CPW – the body best equipped to make informed, science-based decisions based off the North American Model of Conservation that are in the best interest of Colorado and its wildlife as a whole.

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