The annual Photography Issue always closes out the year at Colorado Outdoors and we are thankful and appreciative of the support of our hunters, anglers, park visitors and so many others who understand that conservation work is at the core of what we do at Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).
The strides we’ve made in 2019 have been enormous. CPW staff has worked hard to protect our state’s natural resources over the course of the past year. I’d like to extend my thanks to our hard-working staff and encourage you, the next time you see a CPW employee, to thank them as well.
Here in Colorado, we are lucky to have year-round access to unparalleled sights, sounds and resources of the natural world. The annual Photography Issue is a chance to celebrate that privilege, and we are grateful for the images you send us of our fantastic fauna, amazing landscapes, and for the sportspeople and park visitors who get outside to experience and support the abundance of Colorado.
As employees of CPW, we spend our days working to serve CPW’s mission to perpetuate the wildlife resources of the state, and this past year has brought great success. From the interceptions of invasive species by our hard-working Aquatic Nuisance Species employees, to park rangers and staff providing educational opportunities, to our district wildlife managers checking hunters and anglers and solving our fortunately rare poaching cases, we are the boots on the ground providing outstanding customer service while ensuring future generations have access to our natural resources.
The passing of the Future Generations Act in the Colorado Legislature has allowed CPW to adjust prices for in-state hunting and fishing licenses as well as state park entry fees, to address projected funding shortfalls of $30 million annually for wildlife and $11 million annually for parks by 2025. It’s also allowed for some big wins in 2019.
One of the first big wins came on July 18, when the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission unanimously approved a multi-year expansion of the Public Access Program that included 100,000 acres added to the program for the fall 2019 hunting season. The Public Access Program provides limited, seasonal hunting and fishing opportunities on Colorado trust land across the state. The vote was the first step in a multi-year effort to double the size of the Public Access Program from 480,000 acres to nearly one million acres over the course of the next two years. Public access for wildlife-related recreation on trust lands is made possible through the Public Access Program, a lease agreement between the State Land Board and CPW. CPW is able to fund this one-million-acre lease through hunting and fishing license fees and the Future Generations Act approved by the legislature.
Another big win came on Sept. 12, when Governor Jared Polis announced that a diverse partnership — including CPW, the City of Trinidad, The Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy, and Great Outdoors Colorado — was working to make the 30-square-mile Fisher’s Peak ranch, located outside the city of Trinidad, Colorado’s next state park. The outstanding wildlife habitat coupled with nearby CPW properties like Trinidad Lake State Park, James M. John State Wildlife Area and Lake Dorothey State Wildlife Area will create fantastic connectivity opportunities for both wildlife and people. The property connects Colorado’s eastern grasslands to the western mountains and serves as a varied wildlife corridor. Providing habitat for large native species like elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, mountain lion and black bear, the property helps maintain important connections between their populations in the mountains and those in the prairies. And for the first time, Colorado residents will be able to access the top of iconic Fisher’s Peak without a roundabout trek across the New Mexico state line. This new state park will be a win for all Colorado residents and we’re committed to opening this new park by January of 2021.
Just a little over a month earlier, Governor Polis also signed an Executive Order prioritizing the conservation of big-game winter habitat and migration corridors. The Executive Order also highlights the importance of intact landscapes and habitats, as well as the important role that critical winter range plays in the overall health of our big-game herds. It also underscores the importance and prioritization of wildlife crossings when planning roadways or doing construction on existing roadways.
Recreating in our outdoor spaces and conserving our natural resources for future generations are vitally important to all Coloradans. We know that as Colorado’s population continues to grow, there will be even more pressure placed on our natural resources. The pressure that population growth and increased use puts on our natural spaces and wildlife habitat is a major issue CPW has been and will continue dealing with. It’s a challenge we’re excited to tackle as we move forward into 2020.
It’s my privilege to serve as the Director of CPW, and all of our staff is proud to serve you. As we close out 2019, I’d like to extend my best wishes to everyone for a great holiday season. I hope you enjoy this special issue of Colorado Outdoors.
Dan Prenzlow, Director
Colorado Parks and Wildlife