An animal rights group opposed to hunting has sued Colorado Parks and Wildlife over a new rule that requires visitors to buy a hunting or fishing license to access State Wildlife Areas and State Trust Lands. The lawsuit comes as a group of hikers, climbers and paddlers urges CPW to delay implementation of the licensing regulation.
The license requirement imposed at the end of June fails to distinguish between residents and visitors who buy licenses for hunting and fishing and people who might buy the license for nonconsumptive uses like hiking, bird-watching, rafting and standup paddling, Friends of Animals argued in lawsuit filed Tuesday in Denver District Court.
CPW passed the regulation requiring the licenses to access the state’s 350-plus State Wildlife Areas and nearly 240 State Trust Lands in late April after seeing unintended uses on lands meant to protect wildlife. The new regulation comes as the agency sees increasing use by visitors who are not hunting or fishing on lands that are protected for wildlife conservation.
A fishing license costs $35 for residents and $97 for nonresidents. All licenses, except one-day fishing and hunting permits, require a $10 habitat stamp. CPW’s annual state parks pass is not valid for State Wildlife Areas.
The agency, which is not supported by public tax dollars, also is tweaking its fee structure to offset project budget shortfalls as hunting and fishing license revenues decline. Revenue from hunting and fishing licenses was used to acquire many State Wildlife Areas and pay for access to State Trust Lands.
Several recreation groups – including Colorado Mountain Club, Colorado Mountain Bike Association, American Whitewater, Great Old Broads for Wilderness and Boulder Climbing Community – are urging the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to consider the rule’s impact on recreation.