Thursday, July 2, 2020

Hikers will now need a hunting or fishing license to hike in Colorado State Wildlife Areas

he Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission recently adopted a rule change, requiring all visitors 18 or older to possess a valid hunting or fishing license to access any State Wildlife Area or State Trust Land leased by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. This new rule will be in effect beginning July 1, 2020. “Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages over 350 State Wildlife Areas and holds leases on nearly 240 State Trust Lands in Colorado, which are funded through the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses,” said Southeast Regional Manager Brett Ackerman. “The purpose of these properties is to conserve and improve wildlife habitat, and provide access to wildlife-related recreation like hunting and fishing that are a deep part of Colorado’s conservation legacy.”

Because these properties have always been open to the public, not just to the hunters and anglers that purchased them and pay for their maintenance, many people visit these properties and use them as they would any other public land. As Colorado’s population - and desire for outdoor recreation - has continued to grow, a significant increase in traffic to these SWAs and STLs has disrupted wildlife, the habitat the areas were acquired to protect, and the hunters and anglers whose contributions were critical to acquiring these properties.

Because funding for these properties is specifically generated by hunting and fishing license sales and the resulting federal match, requested options such as “hiking licenses” or “conservation permits” would not allow for the maintenance and management needed. Any funding from one of these conceptual licenses or permits would reduce the federal grant dollar for dollar and thus fail to increase CPW’s ability to protect and manage the properties.

“This new rule change will help our agency begin to address some of the unintended uses we’re seeing at many of our State Wildlife Areas and State Trust Lands,” said CPW Director Dan Prenzlow. "We have seen so much more non-wildlife related use of these properties that we need to bring it back to the intended use - conservation and protection of wildlife and their habitat."

“We do anticipate some confusion based on how the properties are funded, and the high amount of unintended use over time in these areas. We plan to spend a good amount of time educating the public on this change,” said Ackerman. “But in its simplest form, it is just as any other user-funded access works. You cannot use a fishing license to enter a state park, because the park is not purchased and developed specifically for fishing. Similarly, you cannot use a park pass to enter lands that are intended for the sole purpose of wildlife conservation, because a park pass is designed to pay for parks.” State law requires that the agency keep these funding sources separated.

CPW is a user-funded agency and, unlike most government agencies, receives very little money from the general fund. The new rule requires all users to contribute to the source of funding that makes the acquisition and maintenance of these properties possible. But the activities that interfere with wildlife-related uses or that negatively impact wildlife habitat don't become acceptable just because an individual possesses a hunting or fishing license. Each SWA and STL is unique and only certain activities are compatible with each property.

Many questions on the new rule are answered through our State Wildlife Area Frequently Asked Questions document.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Gov. Polis signs funding bill to aid CPW in developing next state park

In a sun-soaked open space flanked by 9,633-foot Fishers Peak, Gov. Jared Polis signed into law Monday a bill that provides $1 million to support Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s development of Colorado’s next state park.

Polis called the funding critical toward achieving his goal of CPW opening the 19,200-acre park to the public as the 42 state park.

The governor also called the next state park an economic engine that will drive the economy of Trinidad and the region as he signed Senate Bill 3 in front of a small group of lawmakers and dignitaries including Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Department of Natural Resources, and CPW Director Dan Prenzlow. “Th

is is a big day because developing our 42nd state park is not as simple as opening the gates and inviting the public,” Prenzlow said. “CPW parks staff, wildlife and aquatic biologists, engineers, wildlife managers and all our partners are deep into the process of transforming this former ranch into a showplace for all who might want to recreate here.

“CPW staff is committed to meeting the governor’s challenge to open this park by 2021 by accelerating the designing and construction of state parks from a multi-year process down to a single year. This funding will help us expedite the process. I’m confident when we finally open these gates, the public will be thrilled at the park that will greet them.”

Gibbs and Prenzlow were joined by Representatives Daneya Esgar and Perry Will, local government and business officials from Trinidad and Las Animas County as well as leaders of CPW’s non-profit partners The Nature Conservancy (TNC), The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), each playing a critical role in the purchase of the Fishers Peak property.

“We could not have gotten this far without the hard work of our partners from GOCO, the City of Trinidad, TNC and TPL,” Prenzlow said. “Nor could this happen without our partners in the Legislature and in the hunting and fishing communities who provided millions in revenue from hunting and fishing license sales.”

In February 2019, CPW partnered with the City of Trinidad, TNC, TPL and GOCO to purchase the mostly undeveloped property, prized for its variety of habitat, wildlife and the linkage it provides between grasslands to the east with foothills and mountains to the west.

On April 2, the partners signed over ownership of the property to CPW and the agency, with its partners, immediately ramped up master-planning efforts to create a park that will protect the natural treasures and wildlife found there while welcoming visitors, including hunters, hikers, mountain bikers, wildlife watchers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

For months, biologists have been combing the property to inventory the flora and fauna. Among their discoveries was the presence of the endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse. In 2014, the mouse was listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service due to loss of habitat and low population numbers.

Bird surveys continue and are going well; biologists believe they have found a potential golden eagle nest as well as a nesting pair of peregrine falcons. They also report owl sightings.

Herptile surveys have found an unusual lizard species, a variable skink, making the property likely the only state park with this species.

Biologists have also deployed dozens of trail cameras across the property to study everything moving on the ground. There’s even coordinated weed-mapping underway with experts studying plants to formulate the appropriate seed mixture to use when landscaping areas of the park.

The information gathered will then be combined with research into the archaeological and cultural history of the property. Next comes the public process as planners gather input to set management goals for the property and design recreation areas that include roads, parking lots, restrooms, picnic areas, trails and wildlife-viewing areas for the public to enjoy.

In recent weeks, crews have begun grading and laying gravel on a new access road and parking lot.

Installing vault toilets is expected to be completed in the coming days. To stay informed on continuing progress of the park, please sign up to receive CPW eNews emails or visit

The property remains closed to public access.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Monday, June 29, 2020

Brainard Lake Recreation Area to Open for Summer Season July 1

The Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland is opening the Brainard Lake Recreation Area for summer use on July 1 with some minor changes to help facilitate social distancing in accordance with local, state and federal guidelines. This includes allowing 80% capacity in parking lots. Please be sure to check the Brainard Lake Recreation Area website for details on the changes.

The Brainard Lake Recreation Area, located in Boulder County, is approximately 3,000 acres of higher elevation forest. It is a highly popular recreation destination on the Boulder Ranger District, with parking lots often filling by 9 a.m. during the peak summer season. This plan will take parking spots available to 238 from 298, optimizing access for the public while emphasizing public and employee safety. It will also include a scheduled entry plan the public can utilize when planning their visit. This plan will allow staff to focus on needs, such as increased frequency of restroom cleaning, as opposed to managing traffic congestion issues.

These changes will impact access to several popular hiking destinations, including Lake Isabelle, the Long Lake Loop, and Pawnee Pass.

Changes at the Brainard Lake Recreation area this year are tiered to a 2016 transportation study of the area and were made in close coordination with the concessionaire who manages the Brainard Lake Recreation area, American Land and Leisure. Staff from both the Forest Service and American Land and Leisure will monitor the plan over the season and make adjustments as necessary to meet the intent. Data gathered this summer can also be used, along with previous information gathered, to help make management decisions for the area into the future.

Changes do not impact access for those with reservations at the Pawnee Campground or permits for overnight use in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Plan details, including information on the scheduled entry plan, will be posted on the Brainard Lake Recreation Area website.

Visitors are also urged to take the precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) along with local health and safety guidance.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Search Suspended For Missing Hiker in Colorado National Monument

The search for missing hiker Jim Fuchs was suspended today with the retrieval of a deceased male that matched his description from the search area. The identification of the victim and cause of death will be established by Mesa County Coroner’s office. The victim was discovered early Saturday, June 27, 2020 in rough terrain beyond the Devil’s Kitchen rock formation in Colorado National Monument.

Monument staff initiated search efforts for Mr. Fuchs on Thursday, June 25, 2020, in response to an overdue hiker report from a close friend. Searchers from the National Park Service, Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and Mesa County Search and Rescue Ground Team were involved in the search. Search teams began the night of Thursday, June 25, 2020 with a specially licensed drone equipped with thermal imaging and cameras. Working in shifts, almost 30 search and rescue volunteers methodically combed through miles of nearby canyons for any sign of Mr. Fuchs.

Special thanks go out to the employees of the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and all the volunteers of the Mesa County Search and Rescue Ground Team for their donated time.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Friday, June 26, 2020

Missing Hiker at Colorado National Monument

Park officials are requesting the public’s help with information regarding a missing hiker. A search and rescue operation is currently underway on the south-east side of Colorado National Monument. Jim Fuchs, a 66-year-old white male from Grand Junction, left a note, which seemed to indicate hiking plans for the monument on Monday, June 22. Staff at the monument was notified at approximately 7:00 p.m. Thursday, June 25, 2020 by a friend who had found the note and had been unable to contact him. Fuchs’ vehicle was found at the Lower Serpents Trail parking lot, just inside the east (Grand Junction) entrance to the monument.

Searchers from the National Park Service, Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and Mesa County Search and Rescue Ground Team are involved in the search. Search teams began last night with a specially licensed drone that is equipped with thermal imaging and cameras. The search resumed first thing Friday morning. Over a dozen search and rescue volunteers are methodically combing through miles of nearby canyons for any sign of Mr. Fuchs. Teams are physically hiking through the area as well as searching by air with the help of the drone.

Jim Fuchs is described as a 66-year-old white male, 5'10" tall and about 175 lbs. It is unknown what he was wearing when he went hiking, however, a recent photo is attached.

If anyone hiking along the trails or backcountry from the Devil’s Kitchen or Lower Serpents parking lots over the last 4 days remembers seeing Mr. Fuchs or has other information, please call monument staff at 970-250-0805.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

CPW warns public of elk and moose aggressively defending their young

Since late May, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials have investigated several elk and moose conflicts resulting in injuries to both people and dogs, and agency officials are cautioning everyone to be extra vigilant this time of year.

Because elk, deer, moose and other wild animals are currently rearing their newborn offspring, it increases the possibility of a serious wildlife encounter. Though most wildlife will protect their young, one of the most significant concerns for human safety is the aggressive response of a large, powerful mother moose or elk in defense of their calves.

A major catalyst in serious conflicts with moose and elk include the presence of dogs or people making unwise choices when viewing wildlife.

“People need to keep their distance and be aware of their surroundings when they are in the vicinity of wildlife and their habitats,” said Scott Murdoch, Wildlife Officer in the Conifer district of Jefferson County. “If you are watching an elk just standing there, but notice a change in its behavior in any way, you are too close and need to back away. Their first signs of being alerted to your presence are often them raising their ears or head and stopping what they were doing.”

There have been three recent elk incidents in June out of Jefferson County and one moose attack back in May in Larimer County that have wildlife officials cautioning the public.

Just last week in Conifer, a woman was walking her dog on a leash when she unknowingly got too close to a cow elk she didn’t see. The elk charged her and she was able to get out of its way, but in the process broke her knee falling off a retaining wall.

On June 7 in Evergreen, a cow elk charged at another woman walking her dog. The woman took refuge on a balcony near a fly shop, but her dog came away with a bloody nose. It is not known for certain if the dog came into contact with the cow elk. Responding wildlife officers surveyed the location and found an elk in the area that showed signs it was nursing and that the calf was likely hidden nearby.

A similar report came in the day prior, also in Evergreen.

On May 23 in the Crystal Lakes subdivision of western Larimer County, a man was attacked by a cow moose when it came out of the trees and reared up on her back legs. The cow knocked the victim down and stomped on his body before running away. The man was sent to a hospital to treat his injuries.

Wildlife officers recovered part of a placenta nearby the attack, as that cow moose had likely just given birth. There were cow and calf tracks in the area, so the mother moose was acting in defense of her newborn.

“It is so important that people keep their distance from wildlife, especially this time of the year,” Murdoch said. “Being close to wildlife increases stress levels for those animals, even if they don't flee from your presence. Additionally, you put yourself into danger when you are close to wildlife”

Many birds and mammals give birth this time of the year. Now through July, newborn wildlife will be found across the landscape and it is important that when they are observed, that people do so from a distance and never try to interact with them.

Having dogs off leash often escalates run-ins with wildlife from just a sighting into what could be a dangerous situation.

CPW stresses the importance of education to prevent conflicts. For information about what to do if you encounter a wild animal, visit the CPW website.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park

Monday, June 22, 2020

Mesa Verde National Park Moving to Extreme Fire Danger Level

Due to continued hot and dry weather conditions, Mesa Verde will be moving into Extreme Fire Danger on Monday, June 22, 2020. An Extreme Fire Danger rating means that fires have a high potential to escape initial attack. There are currently no fires in the park. Due to the increased fire danger level, the park will close the following trails on Monday, June 22, 2020:

Spruce Canyon Trail
Point Lookout Trail
Prater Ridge Trail
Lower Petroglyph Trail
Wetherill Mesa Road, sites, and trails will remain closed

The previous fire ban remains in effect: No wood or charcoal fires are permitted throughout Mesa Verde National Park. This includes all the residences inside the park, Morefield Campground, and the Chapin Mesa picnic area. Pressurized gas stoves, lanterns and other equipment are permitted at Morefield Campground and the Chapin picnic area. No wood or charcoal burning fires are allowed in the campground fire rings or anywhere else in the park. Smoking and e-cigarettes are only permitted in vehicles, parking lots or developed areas clear of vegetation. Cigarette butts must be disposed of in an ash tray or other approved container. Fireworks are prohibited in Mesa Verde National Park.

These restrictions and closures will remain in effect until such time as the fire danger in the park becomes less severe. Due to the lack of forecasted precipitation in the near future, these restrictions may be in place for an extended period of time. Your cooperation in decreasing the potential for a catastrophic fire within Mesa Verde National Park is appreciated.


Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park