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Deer, elk scoping sessions underway

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Photo by Tamie Meck Colorado Parks and Wildlife is holding a series of public scoping meetings on how best to manage deer and elk herds in and around the Delta County area. A session on Game Management Units 53 and 63 was held in Paonia on July 6. The nex

Deer and elk hunters, outfitters and guides, landowners, wildlife viewers and photographers have a window of opportunity to weigh in on how big game herds in and around the Delta County area will be managed in the coming years. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is hosting a series of scoping sessions to gather public comment on how herds are managed in Game Management Units 53 and 63 for deer and GMUs 53, 54 and 63 for elk.

In looking 10-15 years into the future, the process of collecting input from hunters, landowners, farmers and ranchers and other federal and state land management agencies is intended to help CPW manage the state's big game herds and determine the number of licenses that would be offered.

In determining how best to manage herds and allocate licenses in the coming years, one of the most important components of the process is the incorporation of the needs of the interested public, said District Wildlife Manager Andrew Taylor, one of five CPW officials on hand to explain the process and answer questions.

About 35 hunters, landowner and interested parties attended the second of three public scoping sessions, held last Thursday in Paonia. The session included a presentation on the scoping process and current herd data, surveys, and a Q&A session. Separate presentations were given for deer and elk. Input from meetings and surveys will drive management of deer populations and how licenses are allocated through the next 10 years, said Taylor.

CPW uses an "objectives" approach to managing big game populations. Managing herds is a complicated, complex issue, said CPW officials, and must balance the needs of the public -- landowners, hunters, other public agencies and the general population -- with data analysis on herd size, movement, predation, and the biological capabilities of the population's habitat in order to make a plan work.

For those unable to attend a scoping session, CPW welcomes written comments on GMUs 53 and 63 through July 15. A general public survey will be posted on-line in August and September, with notification of posting available by e-mail.

A final public meeting will be held Aug. 9 in Cedaredge and focuses on GMUs 411, 52 and 521. A random survey of landowners and license applicants will be conducted in August, and public comment forms are available on the CPW website.

All of the information gathered will be compiled this fall and a draft plan is anticipated to be released in October. At that time the CPW will take public comment for 30 days. Other land management agencies will also have an opportunity to weigh in on the plan. Early in 2018 the draft plan is anticipated to go to the CPW commission for review and will be up for approval as early as March 2018.

Visit cpw.state.co.us for more information.

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