New law requires license to visit state lands like Basalt wildlife area, Beaver Lake in Marble
A new requirement by Colorado Parks and Wildlife for everyone 18 and older to have a valid hunting or fishing license to visit a state wildlife area will affect some high profile sites in the Roaring Fork region.
The new requirement will affect stand up paddle boarders and other watercraft users on Beaver Lake State Wildlife Area in Marble. It will also affect hikers on the vast trail network in the Basalt State Wildlife Area; wildlife viewers at Lake Christine; people who use gravel pull offs at certain areas along the Fryingpan River; and use of some boat ramps on the Roaring Fork River.
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission approved the new rule on April 30. Area wildlife manager Matt Yamashita said the requirement will likely come as a surprise to many people that use the state lands, so CPW is mounting an extensive education effort on social media, traditional media and signage.
“We’re seeing on all public lands increased public use,” he said. It’s not just a phenomena caused by the pandemic, although that has contributed. Increasing population in the Roaring Fork Valley as well as Colorado in general is leading to more interest in using public lands.
Trails that used to have one or two hikers now see 30 or more, Yamashita said. While uses such as hiking in the Basalt State Wildlife Area or paddle boarding on Beaver Lake might not create a large direct cost for CPW, the agency incurs expenses maintaining those lands and providing access, Yamashita said.
Hunting and fishing license fees are the primary revenue source for CPW. It also receives funds from several programs through the U.S. Department of the Interior designed to enhance wildlife habitat. Requiring all users of state wildlife areas to pay to play is viewed by the agency as more equitable than the current system.
On the other hand, people will now be asked to pay to do something they have been doing for free for years, maybe decades. The Basalt State Wildlife Area, for example, is bordered by scores of residences on Ridge Road, Hillside Drive and Pinon Drive in the Basalt area, Yamashita said. Many residents are regular hikers in the state wildlife area.
Basalt resident Kelly Alford said she hikes the trails in the Basalt State Wildlife Area a few times per week. “I love it up there,” she said.
Alford said she is aware of the new law but was already purchasing a license in recent years.
“I would be more than delighted to pay the $45 permit fee to support the state’s revenues,” she said.
CPW’s headquarters in Denver said in a news release that the new license requirement is also intended to reduce unintended uses of the state wildlife areas, which were acquired to protect wildlife and provide access to wildlife-related recreation such as hunting and fishing. Some of the uses aren’t in tune with the intent of acquiring the land.
An annual fishing license is the cheapest option for frequent visitors to state wildlife areas, Yamashita said. The license for Colorado resident adults ages 18 to 64 is $35.17. A habitat stamp is also required for $10.13. Other add-ons are a $1.50 wildlife education fund fee and $0.25 for Colorado Search and Rescue, which covers the cost in case the license holder must be rescued from the backcountry. A fishing license for seniors is $9.85.
There are less expensive options for people who only need a license for a day or two.
Beaver Lake is probably the highest profile site in the region that will be affected by the new requirement. It’s located just ¼ miles from downtown Marble, so it sees a lot of traffic. The new rule also affects both main areas of the Basalt State Wildlife Area, including Lake Christine and Toner, up Fryingpan Road. People who pull over to eat lunch at Lake Christine or along pull-offs owned or leased by CPW on Fryingpan Road must now have a hunting or fishing license.
In addition, people using the Carbondale boat ramp and the Sam Caudill boat ramp must have a license, even if they aren’t fishing. Any boaters who paid for a commercial use permit don’t have to have licenses for clients, Yamashita said.
CPW also has lands on Williams Hill in the Old Snowmass area that will require a license for use.
CPW has 350 state wildlife areas and holds leases on nearly 240 state trust lands in Colorado. The hunting and fishing licenses cannot be used to access state parks.
Wildlife officers and other CPW workers will start checking for compliance starting July 1. At first, their focus will be on education rather than ticketing, according to Yamashita. Information wasn’t available on Monday about the fine for use of state wildlife areas without a license.
Fishing and hunting licenses are available online at http://www.cpw.state.co.us. They are also available at fishing guide shops and select sporting goods stores. Licenses are good from April 1 through March 31 each year.
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