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Animal group suing CPW over hunting, fishing license requirement

Friends of Animals claims the new rule imposes a person to express the message that they approve hunting and fishing in order to use the land, among other things.
Credit: CPW

COLORADO, USA — A group is suing Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) over its requirement of a valid hunting or fishing license to access any State Wildlife Area or State Trust Land.

Friends of Animals (FoA) is a nonprofit international advocacy organization – with nearly 200,000 members and an office in Centennial – that advocates for the rights of animals and values compassionate conservationism, wildlife and habitat protection, court documents say. 

"(FOA) members oppose associating with or conveying messages in support of consumptive wildlife use, such as hunting and fishing," the document says.

FoA claims the new rule imposes a person to express the message that they approve hunting and fishing in order to use the land and that CPW doesn't have the authority to enact the new requirement. 

FoA also claims the regulation violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment and violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments by restricting access.

The requirement was put into place July 1 for all visitors 18 or older. 

RELATED: Hunting or fishing licenses required to access any State Wildlife Area

Colorado State Wildlife Areas (SWA) and State Trust Land (STL) are acquired using hunter and angler dollars for the sole purpose to conserve wildlife habitat and provide wildlife-related recreation. CPW manages more than 350 SWAs and nearly 240 STLs.

The properties have always been open to the public, not just to the hunters and anglers that purchased them and pay for their maintenance, and many people visit them and use them as they would any other public land, CPW said.

CPW said the regulation is necessary because of a significant trend of people engaging in activities for which these properties were not intended.

The issues range from illegal camping to engaging in recreational activities that disturb and displace wildlife. To begin to address the trend, the CPW Commission voted to require everyone who enters to possess a proper and valid license to hunt or fish in Colorado.

FoA in court documents says: 

  • The regulation fails to provide for a means to distinguish between consumptive and non-consumptive hunting or fishing licenses. 
  • Anyone who purchases a hunting or fishing license, whether to hunt, fish, or engage in a non-consumptive use like bird watching, nature viewing or hiking, could be counted as a hunter or fisher. This could result in fundamental over-reporting of Colorado hunting numbers to the federal government.
  • CPW asserts that the regulation is aimed at reducing illegal and/or improper use of SWAs and STAs. Such uses may be unauthorized camping or travel. However, CPW failed to provide a rational explanation as to how the requirement to have a hunting or fishing license will in any way reduce such illegal or improper uses.
  • The regulation does not require any additional enforcement, and the funds it will generate are not directed to reducing such uses.
  • There is simply no rational connection between a new licensing requirement and the reduction of illegal/improper use of these public lands. There is also no rational connection between the regulation and the administration, protection and maintenance of lands in the SWAs and STAs.
  • CPW failed to adequately consider alternatives to the regulation.
  • By compelling non-hunters to purchase a hunting or fishing license, CPW has restricted their freedom of expression and forced them to associate with and pledge support for an activity that they fundamentally disagree with.

>> Read the full lawsuit here

>> FAQs about the new rules can be found here

RELATED: Parks and Wildlife advises sticking to leash laws as wild animal sightings increase

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