One great benefit of working in fish and wildlife conservation is the opportunity to intimately familiarize myself with the areas where I hunt and fish, especially as I’m fighting to protect them. Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to get a truly unique perspective on our state’s South Park region, as I looked down on this haven for hunters, anglers, and recreationists from a six-passenger aircraft.
All of South Park’s legendary public lands and waters were spread out before me, including the section of the South Platte known as the “Dream Stream” and recognized by Colorado Parks and Wildlife as gold-medal waters. I also spotted the few lesser-known public hunting grounds that I frequent, hoping every season that these areas remain as under-the-radar—excuse the pun—as they are productive in turning out big bulls.
It made me think of “the big picture” that many stakeholders—including county agencies, ranchers, sporting groups, water utilities, environmental organizations, landowners, and extractive industries—as the BLM recently initiated its South Park Master Leasing Plan process. With America being so politicized these days, it’s hard to find consensus on issues dealing with land management in the West, especially when extremists are crying for the seizure and potential sale of our federal public lands. But this group’s level of collaboration has been refreshing and exceptional.
Of course the process hasn’t been without contention. Not everyone agrees on every aspect the plan for every township in South Park, yet everyone at the table seems to share the goal of maintaining an overall way of life in the valley—and it’s not all that different from how we live today. We’re working towards managing the federal public lands of this area in a way that maximizes the benefit to all users. That means protecting irreplaceable fish and wildlife habitat and putting industrialization pressure only on the lands that can handle it.
As we move forward in the BLM planning process, it is absolutely crucial that members of the community, especially hunters and anglers who rely on these public lands, make our voices heard. It may take a few years to finalize these plans, but they will dictate management activities through multiple presidential administrations and waves of bureaucracy over the next 20 years.
For more information, and to get involved, visit the BLM planning page.