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Colorado Opens 100,000 Acres of State Land to Hunting, Fishing

A hunter enjoys some of Colorado's walk-in-access land, which is leased for access from landowners; photo credit: Sean McCoy
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Colorado’s Public Access Program opens 100,000 new acres to hunting and fishing this fall. The acreage will open in time for the 2019 hunting season.

In a unanimous vote on Thursday, Colorado’s Parks and Wildlife Commission approved a multiyear expansion plan for the popular Public Access Program. It’s the first step toward an effort to double the 480,000 acres of state trust land already open to the public. And, notably, this is the first time the program has seen an expansion in access since 1993.

“Colorado is a growing state with increased demand for recreation, hunting, and angling throughout Colorado. In the coming years, Governor Polis and the Department of Natural Resources will continue to seek additional access opportunities to encourage Coloradans to experience, explore, and enjoy the outdoors,” said Dan Gibbs, executive director for Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

Hunting and Angling Fees Pay for State Trust Access

The expansion to 580,000 acres will happen through Colorado’s State Trust Lands. Unlike most public land, federal mandates require that state trust lands act as a for-profit entity to benefit public education.

The Public Access Program works through a lease agreement between the State Land Board and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. CPW pays for the lease through the money generated by hunting and fishing fees and licenses. As of 2019, the program has generated $1.4 billion for Colorado public education.

“This is a major step forward for those of us who rely on public hunting and fishing access for our time afield. An expansion of public access on Colorado’s state lands is a surefire way to support new hunters, grow our rural economies, and ensure all Colorado hunters and anglers have a place to hunt and fish,” said Tim Brass, Colorado hunter and state policy director for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.

And although it’s a big win for sportsmen and sportswomen, Brass looks forward to seeing this program continue to increase access. “Much work remains to be done, but the addition of 100,000 acres of new public access in time for the 2019 hunting season is an accomplishment worth celebrating,” he said.

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