Recently the Colorado Mule Deer Association hosted a sportsmen's presentation in Grand Junction on BLM roads/trails, and is apparently of the opinion that, "Being able to drive into an area that has had a ... road or ATV trail is critical for hunters and anglers." We should all endeavor to remind our fellow hunters that motorized overuse and abuse is one of the biggest threats to public lands habitat and hunting in Colorado and nationwide.
In fact, today only 8 percent of the national forest acreage in Colorado lies beyond one mile of a road (only 4 percent for BLM lands), and there are enough Forest Service roads in the state to go from the Kansas border to Utah and back 17 times. As CPW District Ranger Derek Padilla recently pointed out, "There are too many roads and not enough secluded spaces to separate themselves from human presence. Without (those spaces), the elk move elsewhere, which nobody wants."
As hunters and anglers know from boots-on-the-ground experience, more roads and OHV trails mean elk migrations are hindered, mule deer populations suffer, and trout spawning habitat is negatively impacted. That means less hunting and fishing opportunity. Consequently, public lands agencies should err on the side of closing more roads and trails, and ban exceptions for motorized game retrieval.
If you are unable to figure out how to get an elk or deer out of the woods without putting it on a vehicle, then you have no business hunting for one. Most forests in Colorado, appropriately, disallow off-route motorized game retrieval. As Traditional Bowhunter magazine editor T.J. Conrads said, "The use of ATV/ORVs on federal lands is not a right: it is a privilege, one that has been abused ... causing detrimental effects on the land, wildlife habitat, and other users of the land."
As long as hunters have roamed Colorado, they have had the responsibility of planning ahead and getting their game out. For decades this has been done on foot or with stock. Game carts are an appropriate tool for this in many cases, but if we allow the habitat to be overrun with vehicles for the lazy and unprepared, we will find neither the game nor the solitude we seek. Yes, you might have to walk. You might have to sweat under a pack-frame or behind a game cart. But that is the point. If you want easy food, try the supermarket.
David A. Lien
Hunters & Anglers