Keeping lands federal better for sportsmen

As a big game hunter who (like over 90 percent of Colorado sportsmen) hunts on public lands, the recent push by some elected officials and big industry groups to transfer our federal public lands to state ownership, or to sell them off outright to private interests, is more than a little troubling.

Here in Colorado, legislation sponsored by state Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, and state Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Eaton, is aimed at “transferring” our federal lands to the state. All such proposals are bad for sportsmen, bad for wildlife, and bad for anyone who recreates on public lands.

Transferring public lands to states would mean fewer hunting and fishing opportunities for the average American, because:

State Lands are managed to return the highest possible yield to their school trusts. That means wildlife and recreational considerations are left off the table in many states.

In Wyoming, the public is not allowed to camp on state lands. At all.

In Arizona, citizens can only camp on state land for 14 days per year.

In Montana, you can only camp on state land for two days before having to move.

In Colorado, only 20 percent of state lands are open to public use (access paid entirely by sportsmen through hunting license and gun sales), while the other 80 percent are leased out to the highest bidder.

Whereas our federal public lands are managed for multiple uses, state lands are managed for the highest income. The public has no right to access state lands as we do federal public lands, which are owned by all Americans.

Article 9 of the Colorado Constitution mandates that state lands be managed to generate revenue. Yet, the Constitution mentions nothing about public access. Thus, unless the Constitution is revised, recreational access on state land will remain a pay-to-play game. In addition, 74 percent of Coloradans are opposed to selling public lands (2014 State of the Rockies Poll). And it’s frankly a slap in the face to the 92 percent of Coloradan hunters who use our public lands.

David A. Lien, chairman

Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

Colorado Springs