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Governor Polis speaks about the release Big Game Policy Report in Golden, Colorado

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2021

Governor Declares Habitat Connectivity Day 

GOLDEN — At an event in Golden today, Governor Polis, the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR), in cooperation with the Department of Transportation (CDOT), released a report today detailing options to further protect Colorado’s wildlife habitat and wildlife corridors, and improve conditions for Colorado’s iconic big game species. The Governor also highlighted the state adding dedicated staff to work directly on this partnership, and support a comprehensive and collaborative approach between CDOT and DNR on the conservation of our wildlife and increased motorist safety.  

The report, “Opportunities to Improve Sensitive Habitat and Movement Route Connectivity for Colorado’s Big Game Species,” was produced at the direction of Governor Jared Polis in a 2019 Executive Order (EO), which acknowledged that increased human activity compounds  pressures on Colorado’s wildlife. The Governor’s Executive Order called on state agencies to expand collaboration and research, and propose potential strategies and policy solutions for alleviating habitat fragmentation and degradation.

The report highlights some of the challenges and threats facing Colorado’s wildlife which disrupt landscape connectivity and reduce the availability of functional habitat. These threats include roads and other infrastructure, industrial activities, residential growth, and outdoor recreation. Meanwhile, Colorado’s forest, sagebrush, and grassland ecosystems are already under strain from the impacts of climate change, wildfires, and persistent drought. As the climate changes, the habitats that wildlife rely on will change with it, and this report will help prioritize state policy, coordination and investment to support our wildlife and ecosystems best adapt to the changing climate. 

“Coloradans care deeply about protecting and preserving our state’s wildlife ecosystem and improving driver safety. Colorado is using all available tools and funding options to preserve wildlife habitats by reducing wildlife and vehicle collisions, reducing traffic delays, and ensuring that human activities protect wildlife,” said Governor Jared Polis. “I appreciate the work of the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Transportation and I look forward to working with the Colorado legislature, local, federal and Tribal governments and private landowners in implementing many of the policy priorities laid out in this report.” 

The report examines a range of options to address these challenges, including implementing regulations for energy development and other land uses; improving infrastructure to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions; coordinating conservation funding; planning trails with wildlife in mind; and better incentivizing participation by industry and private landowners in voluntary habitat conservation efforts.

In recognition of the report the Governor also issued a proclamation to officially acknowledge September 29, 2021 as “Wildlife Habitat and Connectivity Day,” underscoring the importance for Colorado to conserve habitat for big game and other native wildlife species and improve connectivity along the routes that wildlife use to migrate across the landscape.

“A key conclusion of the report is that, while there is no single intervention that can resolve the complex challenges affecting Colorado’s big game populations and their habitat, we do have the tools to ensure that these species can continue to thrive in our state,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resource. “Recent efforts in the legislature, including the Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Future Generations Act in 2018 and the Keep Colorado Wild Pass bill in 2021, will provide new funding sources and direction for Colorado’s wildlife and its habitat. Additionally, the state’s updated oil and gas regulations provide new tools and protections to balance energy development and wildlife needs. However, long term success will require a significant shift in priorities, and coordination across agencies, jurisdictions and sectors to provide the sustainable protection our big game species require.” 

“Today’s report showcases how our state agencies can work together in a meaningful way to explore innovative solutions– so that our programs can better respond to the evolving needs of  Colorado residents and our big game wildlife populations,” said Dan Prenzlow, Director, Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Our goals remain working through challenges such as habitat fragmentation, development demand, varied jurisdictions and much-needed funding to find opportunities to create cooperative solutions that help conserve our wildlife.”  

CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew also recognized the need to improve transportation infrastructure that allows wildlife to safely cross highways and roads.

“Wildlife-vehicle collisions pose a risk to people and wildlife alike. An average of 3,300 these incidents are reported to CDOT every year, many of which result in injury to passengers and animal mortality, not to mention thousands of dollars in property damage. There is a significant need to increase funding for wildlife infrastructure, such as under- or overpasses, which we know can be highly effective at improving public safety and conditions for wildlife,” said Director Lew. 

DNR and CDOT conducted extensive research and outreach, and examined approaches by other states in shaping the recommendations put forth in the report. A status update released by the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife (CPW) in 2020 and joint CDOT-CPW study also informed recommendations. 

The Colorado Wildlife Federation, Hispanics Enjoying Camping and Hiking in the Outdoors, Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, National Wildlife Federation and other Coloradans and wildlife advocates participated in today’s event.

“Colorado’s wildlife community appreciates the Governor’s and First Gentleman’s leadership in elevating attention to this important issue,” added Colorado Wildlife Federation Director, Suzanne O’Neill. “We can and must work together to make progress before opportunities are lost.” 

“Connected, healthy lands are critical for people, too, so it’s important to engage all Coloradans in finding solutions,” said HECHO Program Director, Bianca McGrath-Martinez.

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For someone who wears progressive lenses (think bifocals), sunglasses are never an afterthought. And, as a hunter and angler, good vision both near and far is a necessity. Add in WileyX safety ratings and I can’t imagine a better product for the modern sportsman in the field.

WileyX Prescription Captivate lenses raise the bar for comfort, clarity and color enhancement on the water or in the field. Photo by Dan Eichinger

Recently, I put a new pair of prescription Captivate lenses to the test while fishing a deep canyon on Colorado’s South Platte River. Chasing those wiley rainbows, browns and cutthroats was made easier with the clarity and enhanced color of the new shades. I clearly could see fish in their feeding zones and the structure I needed to navigate perfect drifts both on the surface with Caddis and with nymphs below around the rocky stream beds.

 

The changing light of a deep canyon is no match for these sunglasses, and they kept me on the water later into the evening than seemed possible. This kind of polarizing clarity deep into the golden hours has tremendous value for me.

WileyX Captivate lenses on the Twisted frame. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Wearing a pair of WileyX sunglasses is comfort and confidence on the water. My days of squinting from side glare and marginal polarization are long over. This is my second pair of prescription WileyXs – the first pair still working as fine as ever – and I’m grateful every time I tie on a size 22 midge on the trout steams or a Rat-L-Trap in the Louisiana marsh.

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With countless places to roam and enjoy the great outdoors, Americans are taking advantage of these opportunities, and as they go, spending significant dollars, too. New economic reports by Southwick Associates reveal that more than 53 million Americans consider themselves sportsmen, spending over $93.5 billion in 2016 on gear, licenses, travel, clothing, gas and more. 

South Park, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

A series of reports released yesterday by the American Sportfishing Association, National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation show that expenditures made in 2016 for hunting, target shooting and sportfishing gear and services supported 1.6 million jobs and provided $72 billion in salaries and wages. These monies also generated nearly $20 billion in local, state and federal taxes. Much of this tax revenue benefits vital conservation and educational programs that improve our outdoor areas for all who enjoy them and make hunting and shooting safer activities.

“If hunting, fishing and target shooting were a corporation, it would rank #25 on the Fortune 500, ahead of Microsoft,” says Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates. “While time spent outside may come across as something to do after the real work day is done, in reality hunting, fishing and target shooting is a critical industry, generating jobs and income for thousands of communities across the country.”

Key highlights of the reports include:



  • Each year, 35.8 million people 16 years and older take to America’s waters to fish.
  • More than 28 million people over 16 years old took to our nation’s forests and gun ranges to hunt and target shoot in 2016.
  • The number of people who participate in sportfishing, hunting and target shooting represents 16.5 percent of the total U.S. population.
  • When factoring in multiplier effects, spending by sportsmen created economic activity in excess of $220 billion.
  • Hunting, fishing and shooting adds $119 billion of overall value to our nation’s gross domestic product and generates $17.6 billion in federal taxes and $12.2 billion in state and local taxes.

Four separate reports are available: sportfishing from the American Sportfishing Association, hunting and target shooting from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (please register as a guest when asked), plus a report for all activities combined from the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.

Southwick Associates is a market research and economics firm specializing in the hunting, shooting, sportfishing, and outdoor recreation markets. Celebrating 28 years in business, Southwick Associates has a strong reputation for delivering comprehensive insights and statistics to strategic decision making across the entire outdoor industry. Aside from custom market and economic information, Southwick Associates provides custom and syndicated research including customer-driven new product development, outdoor media consumption insights, and equipment purchase tracking studies. Visit www.southwickassociates.com for more information.

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The South Platte at Elevenmile Canyon, Colorado. Photo by Rich Holland

The South Platte at Elevenmile Canyon, Colorado. Photo by Rich Holland

Former Interior Secretary Salazar, NWF CEO and affiliates say keep public lands public

Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar joined Collin O’Mara, the National Wildlife Federation’s CEO and president, and business and conservation leaders Thursday to speak out for conserving America’s public lands and against attempts to sell or get rid of the lands that sustain fish and wildlife populations as well as hunting, fishing and the country’s multi-billion-dollar outdoor recreation industry.

The National Wildlife Federation’s 49 state affiliates have unanimously approved a resolution that calls for keeping public lands in public hands and opposes large-scale exchanges, sales or giveaways of federally managed lands. This week, 41 of the state affiliates sent a letter to the Republican National Committee asking that it rescind a resolution adopted this year that urges Congress to turn over public lands to the Western states that want them.

The affiliates noted that public lands help grow America’s economy by supporting an outdoor recreation industry that generates $646 billion in economic benefit annually and supports 6.1 million jobs. The organizations stressed that wise stewardship of the lands that belong to all Americans is a long tradition that cuts across political and social lines.

Shadow Mountain Lake, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Shadow Mountain Lake, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

“Despite the economic importance of federal lands to wildlife and people, they remain under constant threat. In recent years, several state legislative proposals have called on the federal government to transfer ownership of public lands to the states, which in turn would pass them off to private interests in many instances,” the organizations wrote.

The Interior Department’s latest annual economic report shows the agency’s programs and activities generated $360 billion in benefits and supported more than 2 million jobs nationwide in fiscal 2013. Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar started preparing the reports in 2009 to highlight the department’s contributions to the U.S. economy.

“The nation’s public lands are the birthright and priceless heritage of all Americans. Our policymakers and elected leaders should be working to preserve and enhance these multiple use economic engines,” said Salazar, who served as Interior secretary from 2009 to 2013.

The National Wildlife Federation is on the front lines of conserving fish and wildlife and the places where they live, and in large part those places are public lands, O’Mara said.

“The National Wildlife Federation, our 49 state affiliates, and four million members and supporters strongly support keeping our public lands in public hands. As a diverse federation of hunters, anglers, hikers, wildlife watchers, and nature lovers, we are united in our passion for protecting public lands, which provide amazing outdoor experiences for all Americans, landscapes for deer, elk, pronghorn, and bison herds to migrate, forests for grizzlies, bighorn sheep and lynx, and critical habitat for more than 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 1,000 species of fish and 250 reptile and amphibian species. For more than a century, protecting land for the benefit all outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife has been an essential element of the American experience—and we must pass on this legacy to future generations,” O’Mara said.

The wildlife federations have worked through the years to conserve the public lands necessary for fish and wildlife and hunting and fishing and will continue to do, said David Chadwick, Montana Wildlife Federation executive director.

“Every few decades this idea of selling off public land pops up, and public opinion always beats it back. Meanwhile, the challenges facing our national forests and other public lands have continued to grow,” Chadwick added. “We need our elected officials to quit wasting time on these speculative, ideological proposals and instead take action on the common-sense, collaborative efforts under way all over the country to improve land management.”

Hanging Lake, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Hanging Lake, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Surveys and polls show overwhelming support for public lands among voters in the West, the target of many of the drives to dispose of public land. That support extends beyond the region to other parts of the country where hunters, anglers and other wildlife enthusiasts enjoy the backcountry, rivers and forests, said Tim Gestwicki, the North Carolina Wildlife Federation CEO.

“Sportsmen and women and wildlife watchers in the Southeast value our public lands, from the Appalachians to the coast. We also value the Western lands and their abundant wildlife, big open spaces and great hunting and fishing. We stand with our fellow sportsmen and women in defending public lands and protecting the special places that offer some of the best of what this country is about,” Gestwicki said.

“Sportsmen are on the front line in this effort to prevent the transfer of federal public lands. These are the very lands where we hunt and fish, and where we pass on those traditions to our kids. The idea that somehow our federal public lands are dispensable is an affront to all hunters and anglers, and we are determined to protect these lands for ourselves and for future generations,” said Garrett VeneKlasen, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation.

America’s national parks, monuments and rugged landscapes are not only a draw for people in this country, but across the world, said Peter Metcalf, CEO and president of Black Diamond, Inc., a leading manufacturer of outdoor sports equipment and clothing.

“No other country in the world has the public land infrastructure that we have. There’s such a richness of landscape and wildlife. Our public lands and outdoor recreation and lifestyles are coveted by people around the world and are a draw for communities and employers competing for new businesses and workers,” Metcalf said. “Black Diamond’s brand is synonymous with these iconic landscapes that capture the imagination of people all over the world. In addition they are a source of inspiration for our designers, engineers and marketing people.”

Additional Resources: `Valuing our Public Lands: Safeguarding our Economy and Way of Life,’

National Wildlife Federation affiliates’ resolution on transfer of public lands.

NWF affiliates’ letter on transfer, sale of public lands.

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Next week the shooting, hunting and outdoors industry again will engage in one of the largest trade shows I’ve ever experienced. The SHOT Show is the once-a-year gathering place for manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, publishers and wildlife conservation organizations. It’s where a passion for firearms, ammunition and outdoors equipment, plus the industry’s unified support for the Second Amendment, are on display.

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Author Lew Carpenter at SHOT Show 2012 Media Day with a Smith and Wesson M&P 15 in .300.

This is the 35th annual SHOT Show. The first SHOT Show was in 1979 in St. Louis, Missouri, and more than 60,000 professionals in the shooting, hunting and outdoors industry attended SHOT Show in 2012. In addition more than 2,000 members of the outdoor and mainstream media, including international media, cover the show.

It’s an incredible event, and one where today’s important issues will be discussed with, no doubt, a wide spectrum of opinions. Top-tier issues that affect this industry will certainly include universal background checks for gun buyers, modern sporting rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

In 2012, modern sporting rifles (like the one seen in the picture above) accelerated in popularity. This year’s show will be no different, with an abundance of peripheral accessories to compliment these popular rifles. As hunters and shooting enthusiasts we all have a responsibility to engage in honest, open discussion about the safety of our communities and family members. SHOT Show is an important gathering place where people of integrity will have these discussions.

Other issues of concern to sportsmen will also be on tap. Primarily, conservation.

Personally, I have been engaged for the past four years in the Vanishing Paradise campaign – a movement to restore the Louisiana wetlands. And, as many of you understand, the Mississippi River Delta supports incredible fishing and is the winter home for 70-percent of the waterfowl in the Central and Mississippi flyways.

Vanishing Paradise team members Andy McDaniels and Land Tawney wait for waterfowl in the Louisiana wetlands.

Vanishing Paradise team members Andy McDaniels and Land Tawney wait for waterfowl in the Louisiana wetlands.

Due to efforts by Vanishing Paradise and other conservation organizations, The RESTORE Act last July passed through Congress with strong support from the sportsman’s community, and we can expect that most of the money (80-percent) from any Clean Water Act fines will be sent back to the states affected by the spill.

Unfortunately, the oil spill isn’t over—and America’s hunters and anglers know it.

Every week it seems that scientists discover a previously unknown consequence of the spill. For example, scientists recently announced  that species like mahi mahi—if even briefly exposed to small amounts of oil while still in their eggs—grow up unable to swim as fast as unexposed fish.

It is not surprising that in one recent poll, 81% of hunters and anglers said they thought BP should pay the maximum penalty for their role in the spill.

Last month, the Department of Justice hammered out a plea agreement where BP agreed to pay $4.5 billion to settle the criminal claims against it. Importantly, the company also acknowledged negligence in the deaths of 11 rig workers.

But this criminal settlement doesn’t mean it is all over—far from it.

The Justice Department is still pursuing civil claims against BP under our nation’s environmental laws. If found guilty of gross negligence at trial—and Justice seems to think it has a strong case—BP would face fines in the range of 20 billion under the Clean Water Act alone.

The company also faces billions of dollars in assessments under the Oil Pollution Act. This law requires the company to pay the costs of restoring the Gulf back to the condition it was in at the time of the disaster. To give you a sense of the potential scale, if BP paid the same amount per gallon as Exxon did in the Valdez case, we’d be looking at roughly $30 billion dollars for restoration.

These may seem like large numbers, but it will take an investment on this scale to make the Gulf whole again. It is the Department of Justice’s job to see that BP is held fully accountable. And it is our job, as hunters and anglers, to keep the heat on the Justice Department to make sure it happens.

Please speak up and demand that BP own up to its carelessness in the Gulf and that the Justice Department hold the company fully accountable. America’s hunting and fishing legacy depends on it.

Out West

SHOT Show is also an important place to discuss areas out West where I, like many of you, hunt mule deer, elk, pronghorn and other great species. If you have an interest in supporting and saving our great western hunting legacy, OPL_Sigplease see the Our Public Lands website. Ourpubliclands.org is a place for hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts to get information about the public lands where they enjoy their favorite activities. The public lands issues on the website focus on:

FRIENDS OF COLORADOOUTDOORS.NET

Finally, SHOT Show is a place to reconnect with old friends. And although there are too many to list here, I’m going to take a moment to highlight two great partners who have helped with the Vanishing Paradise campaign and whose senior leadership have been friends of mine for decades.

RealTree Camo has developed the industry’s most realistic pattern ever. Last week the company unveiled its new camo pattern, Realtree Xtra, also available in Realtree Xtra Green.Image

The breakthrough in camo pattern realism comes from a combination of design and printing technology that delivers three distinct fields within one camo pattern: a foreground, mid-ground, and background.

“New Realtree Xtra and Xtra Green truly live up to their names, giving hunters extra effectiveness in the field,” said Realtree Designer and President Bill Jordan. “All throughout the development process, we focused on creating incredible depth, visual confusion and 3D effects in the pattern mid-grounds and backgrounds while still retaining total sharpness and detail in the foreground elements. The result is as close to nature as we’ve ever gotten.”The Realtree Xtra and Realtree Xtra Green camo designs feature 12 warm, natural colors-one with more green. The new designs provide all-season utility for hunters and outdoorspeople. Its subtle shadows, highlights, and textures blend with more terrain and lighting conditions than any other camo pattern available and make Realtree Xtra the most versatile camo on the market.

And our friends at Plano Molding have completely remodeled the Plano website. The new and improved version showcases all Plano products and is much easier to navigate. It also features videos and articles by members of photoPlano’s pro staff and highlights products that they personally endorse. Head on over to www.planomolding.com and have a look around.

Hope to see you all at SHOT Show 2013 and safe travels to the City of Sin!

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When the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently reported the number of hunters grew by nine percent since 2006 and the number of anglers grew by 11 percent in that same time frame, sportsmen and the sporting industry were thrilled. The numbers, which are preliminary results released as the initial look into the USFWS’s 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, reversed what had been dropping participation levels in fishing over the past 10 years and indicated the first jump in hunter numbers in more than two decades. But what were the reasons for the turnaround?

Mark Fisher of WileyX Sunglasses with a brown trout from the South Platte River in Colorado. Photo: Matt Vincent

Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates, which is a leading research and data analysis firm focused on the sportfishing and hunting industries, says the evidence points to several key factors.

“The slow economy has certainly had an impact”, says Southwick. “When the economy took a hit, a lot of people went back to enjoying more traditional activities that were also less costly than other options. Fishing license sales and tackle sales data all back that up.”

In addition to simple economics, on-going efforts to recruit new anglers are paying off. Southwick points to programs such as the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing National Campaign, which has been instrumental in introducing the sport to thousands of new anglers. Demographic shifts are also having an impact.

“Initial feedback indicates more baby boomers may be taking to the water”, says Southwick. The company and the USFWS will be looking at additional data in the coming months to identify other potential trends among youth and other segments of the angling community.

“We’ll be looking closely for shifts in youth and female participation. By the end of the year, we’ll know more”, says Southwick.

John Gale of the National Wildlife Federation with two cock pheasants from Northeastern Colorado. Photo: Lew Carpenter

On the hunting side, the growth in participation is due to the same factors where the economy and recruitment programs are concerned.

“This is the first measured large increase in the number of hunters in years”, says Southwick. “Conservation and firearms industry organizations have been particularly effective at communicating the benefits of hunting.”

Organizations such as the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the National Wild Turkey Federation and the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance all have programs geared toward growing youth and overall participation and have even teamed up to ease age restrictions that deterred many young people from participating in hunting. Additionally, expanded hunting opportunities such as allowing the use of crossbows in a number of states has made hunting more attractive to many new and returning hunters.

“Probably one of the most significant changes has been an apparent cultural shift regarding the acceptance and use of firearms”, says Southwick. Whether hunting or target shooting, many younger adults in their twenties and early thirties, are taking to shooting sports. Firearms sales have been strong for four years.  Whether this is attributable to returning soldiers with a newly found appreciation of the shooting sports or to adults who want to get outside after spending too much of their youth indoors, we need to learn more about the reasons behind the increase”,  says Southwick.

Southwick says there will be more details to come as his team reviews the data to identify more trends behind the growth in hunting and fishing and offers organizations the insight to keep these trends headed in a positive direction.

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