Colorado Parks and Wildlife expands 'Public Access Program'

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

PAP now includes nearly one million acres, fulfilling CPW’s goal to double the size of the program

GRAND JUNCTION – At its meeting in Grand Junction on May 5, the Colorado Parks & Wildlife Commission unanimously approved the enrollment of 199,000 acres into the Public Access Program for the fall 2021 hunting season, bringing the program to a total of 973,000 acres. This expansion fulfills Governor Polis' 2019 “Wildly Important Goal” to double the amount of publicly accessible trust land enrolled in the PAP: from 478,000 (2018) to 973,000 acres (2021).

The Public Access Program provides limited, seasonal hunting and fishing opportunities on Colorado trust land across the state. 

“Colorado is known for our incredible natural beauty, and I ran for Governor with a promise to expand access and enjoyment of our treasured state and federal land, and now we are delivering on that promise in a million ways,” Gov. Jared Polis said. “CPW’s Public Access Program for sportsmen and women is growing just in time for the upcoming 2021 hunting, outdoor recreation, and bird watching season. I appreciate the collaboration and cooperation from the agriculture community as Colorado sees increased demand for recreational hunting and angling access. I am also proud that CPW and the State Land Board have worked closely together to achieve our goal to double the amount of land accessible to Coloradans in the Public Access Program. At now nearly 1 million acres, the Public Access Program is one of several opportunities through which hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy our vast great outdoors. Being able to spread our recreational activities across more land is not only more fun, but also more sustainable and healthy for our ecosystems.” 

Locations of the new lands enrolled in the Public Access Program for fall 2021’s hunting season will be announced with the release of the 2021 Colorado Recreational Lands Brochure later this year. 

"I congratulate the Parks and Wildlife Commission and the State Land Board for expanding access to Colorado state lands,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources. “The expansion of the Public Access Program passed by CPW and the State Land Board doubles the program in only three years, from less than 500,000 acres to nearly one million acres. In the coming years, Governor Polis and the Department of Natural Resources will continue to seek additional access opportunities to encourage Coloradans to experience, explore and enjoy the outdoors.”  

The vote was the final step in a multi-year effort to grow the Public Access Program to nearly 1 million acres.

Last year, CPW enrolled lands in the plains of Eastern Colorado where bird hunting and small game hunting are popular to provide a broader array of opportunities on state trust lands. Before that, the majority of public access was located in Northwestern Colorado where there is prime big game hunting. To further expand the geography and hunting opportunities available on properties enrolled in the Public Access Program, the newly enrolled 199,000 acres are from 69 trust land properties located across the state that range in size from single 640-acre sections of land to 10,000-acre properties. 

Public access for wildlife-related recreation on state trust lands is made possible through the Public Access Program, a lease agreement between the State Land Board and CPW. CPW is funding the expansion of the program through hunting and fishing license fees made available through the ‘Future Generations Act’ approved by the Colorado General Assembly in 2018.  

“I’m thrilled that hunters and anglers will have more access to state trust lands in Colorado this season,” said Dan Prenzlow, CPW Director. “Hunters and anglers are a critical foundation to wildlife conservation. They make significant contributions to our local economy, especially rural economies. It’s an added benefit that our Public Access Program helps fund Colorado school kids.”

Three million acres of land in Colorado have been held in a trust since statehood in 1876 for the purpose of funding public schools. The State Land Board generates revenue from these state trust lands by leasing the land for a variety of purposes, including hunting and recreation. Leasing of state trust lands earned $2 billion for Colorado public schools since 2008 and provided the primary funding source for the Department of Education’s Building Excellent Schools Today program.

State trust lands enrolled in the Public Access Program are open to a variety of wildlife-related uses, primarily hunting and fishing. In addition, the State Land Board leases or permits other uses such as agriculture, mining, oil and gas and renewable energy. A total of 1,065,955 trust land acres will now have limited public access. This reflects 38% of the State Land Board's total 2.8 million acres of trust land. 

Hunters and anglers are encouraged to be mindful and respectful of other authorized uses on these lands. For hunter safety, wildlife protection and the integrity of the land and other uses, the public must follow the rules and regulations at each property enrolled in the program. Unauthorized activity on state trust lands is subject to enforcement.

For more information about the Public Access Program visit CPW’s website. The public may view land enrolled in the Public Access Program using CPW’s Hunting ATLAS