On July 18th, the Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) Commission unanimously approved a multi-year expansion of the Public Access Program that will include up to 100,000 acres added to the program by the fall 2019 hunting season. The Public Access Program provides limited, seasonal hunting and fishing opportunities on Colorado trust land across the state. 

“I congratulate the Parks and Wildlife Commission and the State Land Board for expanding access to Colorado state lands,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources. “The expansion of the Public Access Program passed by CPW on July 18 and the State Land Board earlier this month will grow the program by more than 20% to 585,000 acres over the next year. Colorado is a growing state with increased demand for recreation, hunting and angling throughout Colorado. In the coming years, Governor Polis and the Department of Natural Resources will continue to seek additional access opportunities to encourage Coloradans to experience, explore, and enjoy the outdoors.”  

The vote is the first step in a multi-year effort to double the size of the Public Access Program from 480,000 acres to nearly one million acres. This is the first major expansion of the program since it began in 1993.

In August, CPW will announce the locations of the new lands enrolled in the Public Access Program for fall 2019’s hunting season. The Public Access Program currently includes 480,000 acres, the majority of which are located in Northwestern Colorado, where there is prime big game hunting. CPW will enroll lands in the plains of Eastern Colorado where bird hunting and small game hunting is popular to provide a broader array of opportunities on trust lands.

“Colorado is known for our incredible natural beauty, and I’m committed to expanding the public’s access to and enjoyment of our treasured state and federal land. CPW’s Public Access Program for sportsmen and women is growing just in time for the upcoming 2019 hunting season. We will continue looking at more opportunities to increase access and help relieve overcrowded areas,” said Governor Jared Polis.

The Public Access Program is one of several ways hunters and anglers can get out in Colorado. Colorado spans 66.6 million acres and 23 million acres of public land is available for hunting. 

Additionally, three million acres of land in Colorado are called trust lands and have been held in a trust since statehood in 1876 for the purpose of funding public schools. The State Land Board earns money for schools from trust lands by leasing the land for a variety of purposes, including hunting and recreation. Trust land leases have earned $1.4 billion for Colorado public schools in the past decade and have been the primary funding source for the Department of Education’s Building Excellent Schools Today program.

Public access for wildlife-related recreation on trust lands is made possible through the Public Access Program, a lease agreement between the State Land Board and CPW. CPW funds its 1 million acre lease through hunting and fishing license fees and the ‘Future Generations Act’ approved by the 2018 legislature.  

“I’m thrilled that hunters and anglers will have more access to state trust lands in Colorado this season,” said Dan Prenzlow, CPW director. “Hunters and anglers are a critical foundation to wildlife conservation. They make significant contributions to our local economy, especially rural economies. It’s an added benefit that our Public Access Program helps fund Colorado school kids.”

Trust lands enrolled in the Public Access Program are open to a variety of wildlife-related uses, primarily hunting and fishing. For hunter safety, wildlife protection, and the integrity of the land, the public must follow the rules and regulations at each property enrolled in the program. Unauthorized activity on trust lands is subject to enforcement.

The public may view land enrolled in the Public Access Program using CPW’s Hunting ATLAS. For more information, visit cpw.state.co.us.