Director Cables asked me to respond to your email about the landowner voucher program. He and the members of the Commission all sincerely appreciate the thought you’ve put into this important issue.
The landowner voucher program has been contentious for many years, and it is no easy task to find a solution that improves the situation for everyone. As you may know, our agency convened a committee to look at this program that included both landowners and public land hunters. Even though the members of this committee didn’t agree on every issue, they did agree that the program needs to (1) support wildlife habitat on private lands and (2) promote hunting opportunity for all hunters, on private and public land. The recommendations of that group included a variety of changes to tighten up the program and ensure a clearer linkage between wildlife habitat and program benefits.
By helping landowners see the benefits of wildlife, the voucher program has encouraged them to provide habitat for big game on their private land. Over the last few decades, landowners across the state have come to accept dramatically larger big game herds than they did in the past. This has meant literally tens of thousands more animals for everyone to hunt. Even though the program does set aside some licenses for landowners, on balance it has resulted in a bigger pool of licenses for all hunters.
As you know, the committee recommended changing the 15 percent set aside for landowners under the current program. On the Western Slope, the group recommended that the program should set aside 20 percent with the requirement that half of these vouchers must be used on private land. This is in contrast to the current program where all 15 percent can be used anywhere in the unit, on public or private land. Even though the total is increased slightly, the number of vouchers that can be used on public land is reduced. On the Eastern Plains, the group recommended increasing the proportion to 25 percent but with a requirement that the additional licenses be used by immediate family members. Again here, the intent is to drive more voucher activity on to private land.
I realize that you still might oppose this change, but I hope you see the logic behind it. As the agency continues to implement this program, we will stay focused on the goals of expanding public hunter opportunity and supporting wildlife habitat on private lands.
Thanks again for taking the time to send in your ideas on this issue. Please feel free to email/call if you’d like to discuss this further.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Denver, CO 80216