Thanks for your email about the landowner voucher program. I apologize for the delay in responding to you. I also apologize in advance for the length of my response, but I want to give you as much information as possible about the proposed changes.
The landowner voucher program has been contentious for many years, and it is no easy task to find a solution that improves the situation for everyone. As you may know, our agency convened a committee to look at this program that included both landowners and public land hunters. Even though the members of this committee didn’t agree on every issue, they did agree that the program needs to (1) support wildlife habitat on private lands and (2) promote hunting opportunity for all hunters, on private and public land. The recommendations of that group included a variety of changes to tighten up the program and ensure a clearer linkage between wildlife habitat and program benefits.
By helping landowners see the benefits of wildlife, the voucher program has encouraged them to provide habitat for big game on their private land. Over the last few decades, landowners across the state have come to accept dramatically larger big game herds than they did in the past. This has meant literally tens of thousands more animals for everyone to hunt. Even though the program does set aside some licenses for landowners, on balance it has resulted in a bigger pool of licenses for all hunters.
As you know, the committee recommended changing the 15 percent set aside for landowners under the current program. On the Western Slope, the group recommended that the program should set aside 20 percent, but with the requirement that half of these vouchers must be used on private land. This is in contrast to the current program where all 15 percent can be used anywhere in the unit, on public or private land. Even though the total is increased slightly, the number of vouchers that can be used on public land is therefore reduced. On the Eastern Plains, the group recommended increasing the proportion to 25 percent but with a requirement that the additional licenses be used by immediate family members. Again here, the intent is to drive more voucher activity on to private land.
In addition to recommending these changes, the committee also called for several other changes to enforce the ban on illegal brokering of vouchers and to ensure that properties that participate in the program are actually providing wildlife habitat.
I realize that you still might oppose the proposed change, but I hope you see the logic behind it. As the agency continues to implement this program, we will stay focused on the goals of expanding public hunter opportunity and supporting wildlife habitat on private lands.
Thanks again for taking the time to send in your ideas on this issue. Please feel free to email/call me directly if you’d like to discuss this further.
Every year my Pro-Staff and I head to the woods to hunt the old wise Tom. We travel thousands of miles covering numerous states hunting these old guys. Lots of times we end up hunting public lands or private property that have been hunted already. That’s the last thing you want to hear when you just traveled 6 hours that someone else has already hunted the property. We had to come up with a game plan and one real fast.
The first thing we did was ask the farmer were they usually see the birds in...