Friday, March 9, 2012

Colorado PWC Extends OHV Enforcement Pilot Program

DENVER - The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission approved $300,000 in funding to extend a pilot program designed to monitor compliance with off-highway vehicle regulations and rejected a citizen petition to allow air rifles as a legal means of hunting furbearers during its monthly meeting on Thursday.

During 2011, State Trails Program Manager Tom Morrissey said teams of law enforcement officers from Colorado State Parks, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management contacted 10,000 individual riders in problem areas identified by environmental and quiet recreation groups.

Less than 5 percent were issued warnings or citations, Morrissey said, the majority for failure to comply with OHV registration requirements. Rangers spent about 90 percent of their time on or around designated OHV routes. Morrissey said they saw little evidence of off-trail damage but did report a significant need for increased trail maintenance and better signage to identify designated routes.

Commissioner Jim Pribyl said the program had a successful first year. "We appreciate how the OHV community worked with us to create a program that increased education and compliance with both state and federal OHV regulations," said Pribyl. "The project has clearly shown that law-enforcement visibility deters illegal off-trail riding and increases compliance."

Commissioners unanimously voted to fund the program for 2012, suggesting rangers focus on new compliance check areas and use of remote sensing equipment like trail monitors and game cameras to monitor illegal or user-created trails. Several commissioners also suggested that the trail program tap the local knowledge possessed by district wildlife managers to identify new problem areas to target.

Morrissey also briefed the commission on the progress of this year's Recreational Trail Grant process. Fifty-seven motorized project applications totaling $6.8 million were submitted by the December 2011 deadline. About $4 million in funding is available for motorized OHV trail grants in 2012. Applications for non-motorized trail projects totaled $4.3 million, with about $1.6 million available to award. Commissioners will vote on grant awards at the April 12 commission meeting in Pueblo.

Colorado's OHV Trails Program is funded through the sale of OHV registrations and use permits. Over 160,000 OHVs were registered or permitted for use in Colorado during the 2010-2011 registration years. Revenue generated by the annual $25.25 user permit are used to support the statewide OHV program, the OHV registration program and the OHV trail grant program, including OHV law enforcement.

In other business, Commissioners rejected by a seven-four vote a citizen petition to allow air guns of 22-caliber or larger to be used in the take of furbearers.

Regulations manager Brett Ackerman told the commission that CPW staff had several concerns about the effectiveness of air guns on furbearers, which are generally larger than the species for which air guns are currently permitted. Ackerman said that muzzle velocity for air gun pellets, on average, is significantly lower than regular cartridges. As a result, he said, the effective range of air guns for many species with air guns is greatly reduced, while the risk of an errant shot wounding an animal is increased.

Commissioners also received a briefing on two new proposed additions to the Colorado Natural Areas Program, a cooperative, voluntary effort to conserve ecosystems, species, geology and fossils that represent unique resources in Colorado.

The 6,300-acre East Lost Park area, which is part of the Lost Creek Wilderness Area, is significant because it hosts the largest population of Porter feathergrass, which is only found in South Park. Three other plants that are uncommon elsewhere in Colorado can also be found at the site.

The 373-acre Hoosier Ridge area, a high alpine site in the Pike National Forest, has long been recognized as one of the richest botanical sites in Colorado. Limestone outcrops located above 11,000 feet in elevation create a home for seven alpine vegetative communities and one of the highest concentrations of rare plants found anywhere in the state.

Since 1997, CNAP has enrolled 90 sites that host more than 150 rare, threatened or endangered species and plant communities. Commissioners will vote on adding these two areas to the CNAP list at the April 12 meeting in Pueblo.

The meeting was held at the Hunter Education Building on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife campus at 6060 Broadway in Denver. On Friday, commissioners will host a workshop to discuss three of the agency's strategic priorities: recruitment and retention, habitat protection and improvement, and financial sustainability.

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission is a 14-member board appointed by the governor that sets regulations and policies for Colorado's state parks wildlife programs. The Commission meets monthly and travels to communities around the state to facilitate public participation in its processes. For the remainder of 2012, the commission will hold meetings in Pueblo, Grand Junction, Craig, Sterling, Gunnison, Glenwood Springs, Durango, Yuma and Colorado Springs.

To view the complete agenda for the March Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting, please go to the Commission web page at:

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