OUT: Sunday Column April 05, 2009

Forget doing the taxes, hunting papers due Tuesday

That deadline for 2009 limited-license big-game hunting applications is, like, Tuesday.

Your taxes can wait another week, but something as important as having a place to hunt
next fall can’t.

If you’ve procrastinated this late, the easiest and fastest way is to log on to the Division of Wildlife Web site at wildlife.state.co.us, click on Hunting and follow the links to the application page.

It takes about 10 minutes or less, if you already know the season and the game management unit where you want to hunt.

It’s really easy and it’s a glimpse of how things are going to be. The ever-growing embrace of technology, and the simple fact that newsprint is expensive and getting more so, means it’s likely some day you won’t get the brochure in the mail and won’t have an option between Internet convenience and the snail mail process.

Plus, filling in the blank on your computer virtually guarantees a mistake-free application, which means you have a better chance of actually getting that much-coveted tag.

About the only mistakes you can make are forgetting to scout the area beforehand, shoot your rifle enough to become familiar with it or figure out what you’re going to do with the big animal once it’s on the ground.

The computer can’t really help with any of those or the myriad of other challenges hunters face, but that black box can connect you with people and videos that have some of the answers.

The heavy lifting, though, still is up to you.

As I write this column, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, the bill that contains the National Landscape Conservation System Permanence Act that protects over 26 million acres of public land in perpetuity, was adopted by the House of Representatives by the vote 285-140.

“This is great news for sportsmen, particularly here in the West, where the conservation system protects some of the best fishing and hunting territory left in the United States,” said Dave Glenn, backcountry lands director for Trout Unlimited. “This means that places like Colorado’s Gunnison Gorge and Oregon’s Steens Mountain region will be intact for future generations of sportsmen and women. Thanks to this bill, our hunting and fishing heritage remains alive and well.”

The National Landscape Conservation System consists of a vast network of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The system was created in the late 1990s but enjoyed only administrative protection.

Now that protection is now permanent and that gives sportsmen all over the West guaranteed access to some of the last and best fish and game habitat left in the country.

“Congress did right by sportsmen today, and we’re grateful for that,” said Jim Bartschi, president of Scott Fly Rods Inc. of Montrose. “The (Gunnison) Gorge is one of the best wild trout fisheries in the West, and we’re fortunate to have it right out the back door. To know that it will always be there is gratifying, not just as a businessman, but as someone who likes to get off the beaten path and experience what the West is really all about.”

The Senate passed S.22 twice, by votes of 73-21 and then 77-20, the second vote showing the broad range of support for the protections offered.

“This bill protects a lot of wildlife habitat,” said Chris Hunt of Trout Unlimited, “and that translates into more opportunity for anglers and hunters and other recreationists. That’s the bottom line.”

But the question that hasn’t been answered is how all these new land protection measures are going to be financed.

Perhaps the bill has some fiscal allowances that haven’t been made public, but how can our budget-strapped federal land management agencies be expected to re-direct their efforts without support from, well, who?

Private citizens becoming watchdogs? Budget increases while the country is dealing with a $1.3 trillion deficit? A few bake sales to raise money for signs and fences?

As you recall, the Bureau of Land Management in recent years has become a dealer in energy leases, not the public lands multi-use management agency it was before.

The bill calls for some distinct and immediate changes in vision and direction for the BLM and the Forest Service, and making those changes in a governmental agency is akin to turning the Queen Mary.

Not that it can’t be done, but it’s going to take a while to do it.


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