Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) announced in May that its Public Access Program would be increasing in 2020 by 206,520 acres, providing even more seasonal hunting and fishing opportunities on Colorado trust land across the state.
Now the locations of these new properties are available to view. CPW’s 2020 Colorado State Recreation Lands brochure has been published and you can view the Public Access Program properties added this year by looking for the red “NEW” tag in front of the property name. Another resource is the Colorado Hunting Atlas, an interactive map that depicts all trust land enrolled in the Public Access Program. Please note: A valid hunting or fishing license is required for everyone 18 or older accessing any Colorado Parks and Wildlife-leased State Trust Land.
A Commitment to Increasing Access
On July 18, 2019, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission unanimously approved a multi-year expansion of the Public Access Program that added 77,182 acres to the existing 465,000 acres in the program, bringing the total to more than half a million acres. This year’s 206,520-acre addition brings the total to 774,000 acres, a 66% increase over the last two years. Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s goal is to reach one million acres by the 2021 hunting season.
“Colorado’s outdoor spaces are more important now than ever before, and part of why so many people love our great state. Increasing access to Colorado’s lands is a priority of my administration. Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Public Access Program for sportsmen and women is growing, and this expansion will provide more opportunities for Coloradans to hunt and fish,” said Governor Polis. “We will continue looking at more opportunities to increase access to our amazing outdoor areas for Coloradans.”
Prior to this expansion, the majority of properties enrolled in the Public Access Program were located in northwestern Colorado where there is prime big game hunting. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is providing a broader array of hunting opportunities on trust lands by expanding the program in eastern Colorado where bird hunting and small game hunting is prevalent. More than 163,000 acres of the 2020 property additions are east of I-25.
Colorado spans 66.6 million acres and 23 million acres of public land is available for hunting. Additionally, three million acres of land in Colorado are called trust lands and have been held in a trust since statehood in 1876 for the purpose of funding public schools. The State Land Board earns money for schools from trust lands by leasing the land for a variety of purposes, including hunting and recreation. Ninety-eight percent of trust land is leased for agriculture. More than one-third will be enrolled in the Public Access Program by the end of 2021.
The Public Access Program is a lease agreement between the State Land Board and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Public access for wildlife-related recreation on trust lands is made possible by the license purchases of hunters and anglers. Colorado Parks and Wildlife will fund the new acreage opened to public access through hunting and fishing license fee increases approved by the General Assembly in 2018 in the “Future Generations Act.” In total, trust land leases have earned $2 billion for Colorado public schools in the past 15 years and have been the primary funding source for the Department of Education’s Building Excellent Schools Today program.
“Hunters and anglers are a critical foundation to wildlife conservation,” said Dan Prenzlow, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Director. “They make significant contributions to our local economy, especially rural economies. It’s an added benefit that our Public Access Program helps fund Colorado school kids.”
“I’m glad that hunters and anglers will have even more access to state trust lands in Colorado this season, and I’m grateful for the cooperation we’ve gotten from the ranchers and farmers who already lease these properties for agriculture,” said Greg Ochis, State Land Board Assistant Director. “These leasing activities stimulate the local economies and also help generate money for Colorado school kids.”
Trust lands enrolled in the Public Access Program are open to a variety of wildlife-related uses, primarily hunting and fishing. Nearly all of the properties enrolled in the Public Access Program are also working ranches leased for agriculture, and hunters are expected to respect the existing agriculture operations. For hunter safety, wildlife protection, and the integrity of the land, the public must follow the rules and regulations at each property enrolled in the program. Unauthorized activity on trust lands is subject to enforcement. Hunters and anglers must check the rules and regulations for each property enrolled in the program; timing and use restrictions vary. For more information on CPW’s Public Access Program, please visit the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.
Travis Duncan is a public information officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Denver. Travis has lived in Colorado nearly 20 years and loves the outdoors. If you have a question, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.