Colorado residents can help save habitat for $10 | AspenTimes.com

Colorado residents can help save habitat for $10

Hunters, anglers and other conservationists concerned about shrinking wildlife habitat in Colorado can put their money where their mouth is starting next month.Special fees will be applied to hunting and fishing licenses as well as through a new “habitat stamp” for other conservationists. Sportsmen must pay an additional $5 to the first two licenses they purchase in a calendar year. For people who don’t hunt or fish, the habitat stamp will be $10.The stamp is mandatory in 2006 for people who buy licenses and for anyone else who uses state wildlife areas. The Colorado Division of Wildlife hopes that people concerned about the outdoors will purchase the stamp voluntarily, regardless of whether they venture into a wildlife area.The habitat stamp is expected to raise $2.3 million annually. Over the first five years of the program, 60 percent of the annual proceeds must be used to acquire winter range – lands that deer and elk depend on for food and cover.Skyrocketing real estate prices throughout much of the state have sparked development of private lands that provide good winter range and other habitat. The state and conservation groups have had trouble competing against private enterprise to secure any of those lands, according to wildlife division spokesman Randy Hampton. “This gives us a way to come to the table,” he said.The state agency hopes to use the funds from the habitat stamp to work with conservation groups to acquire conservation easements on land.”It can make a dent,” Hampton said of the program. “How big of a dent is a question.”Hunting and fishing license fees provide almost all the funds for the wildlife division. It isn’t taxpayer-supported.”Sportsmen have always stepped up to the plate,” Hampton said. “This was the most innovative thing to happen for wildlife in decades.”The Colorado Legislature approved the program. Several prominent conservation groups, such as the Colorado Environmental Coalition, lobbied for its passage.”Without a doubt Colorado needs to protect more wildlife habitat,” said Elise Jones, executive director of the coalition. She said this program provides a way for conservationists and sportsmen to work together.The stamps are available any place where licenses are sold, starting Dec. 15. The wildlife division is gearing up an educational effort. People who use lands like the Basalt State Wildlife Area, above Lake Christine on Basalt Mountain, will be told about the program before enforcement will start, Hampton said.In the midvalley, the Basalt State Wildlife Area is one of the most visible pieces of property the stamp requirement affects. It also applies to the shooting range at the area. It also affects other sites up the Fryingpan Valley and boat ramps on the Roaring Fork River.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com.

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