Funding Sources & Lawsuits: Why Colorado Now Requires a Hunting License for Some Public Lands

Friends of Animals recently filed a lawsuit against Colorado Parks and Wildlife for requiring a hunting or fishing license to access State Wildlife Areas (SWA) and State Trust Land (STL). They claims this is a violation of their First Amendment freedom of speech because, as non-hunting members of the public, they are being forced to make a public statement in favor of hunting and fishing.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) recently enacted new regulations to return SWA and STL property to its intended uses, wildlife related recreation, by requiring a hunting or fishing license to access the land. SWA and STL lands are not funded by taxpayer dollars and the only funding they receive is through Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson dollars, as well as fees from the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses. As such, sportsmen paid to purchase the lands and pay to maintain the lands, so the main purpose of the properties should remain hunting and fishing recreation.

CPW states that non-consumptive use and the now defunct SWA access permits, reduced the amount of federal funds granted the following year. As a result, CPW has clarified that users are not required to hunt or fish, but you must have a valid hunting or fishing license to access the land so that matching federal dollars are not reduced and all those who access the land are contributing to its funding. Simply put, those who want to use the public lands for purposes other than hunting and fishing should contribute their fair share of the money needed to support those lands.

The Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts implemented an excise tax on the purchase of firearms, ammunition, fishing and outdoor equipment that funds conservation and public land management efforts across the U.S. These taxes are collected, in addition to license and permit fees, and collectively fund the majority of all wildlife conservation and public land access in Colorado. Sportsmen should be able to hunt on the land they pay to maintain.

“The bottom line here is activist groups want to access land that is intended for and paid for by hunting and fishing without contributing to wildlife conservation and land management funds,” said Jacob Hupp, associate director of state services at the Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Unpaid access to hunting lands in Colorado is a problem for all conservationists. Sportsmen have always been willing to share public lands with other groups, even those people trying to end hunting, but unfettered, unpaid and non-consumptive access inhibits the intended use of the land and creates funding problems for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. It actually takes money away from conservation.”

About the Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Sportsmen’s Alliance protects and defends America’s wildlife conservation programs and the pursuits – hunting, fishing and trapping – that generate the money to pay for them. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation is responsible for public education, legal defense and research.  Its mission is accomplished through several distinct programs coordinated to provide the most complete defense capability possible. Stay connected to Sportsmen’s Alliance: OnlineFacebookTwitter and Instagram.