Report shows importance of roadless areas to Colorados hunting and fishing heritage

From Trout Unlimited: DENVER—A new report produced by Trout Unlimited and released on Wednesday emphasizes the strong connection between successful hunting and fishing in Colorado and healthy roadless areas in the state. “There’s no question that roadless areas are the key to preserving Colorado’s hunting and fishing heritage,” said Brian O’Donnell, director of TU’s Public Lands Initiative. “This report provides vital data that should be very useful as Colorado works to determine the future of its roadless areas.” According to the report, all three of Colorado’s native cutthroat trout species depend heavily on roadless areas for habitat and survival. For instance, 76 percent of present-day greenback cutthroat trout habitat flows through roadless areas. Also, the bulk of Rio Grande and Colorado River cutthroat habitat is in waters flowing through roadless areas (58 percent and 71 percent respectively). “These roadless areas provide pristine habitat for our native trout,” said Tom Beck, a former Colorado Division of Wildlife biologist in Durango. “If we allow further development of these areas, we risk trashing some of the best fish habitat and angling destinations in the state.” Roadless areas are equally important to big game and Colorado big-game hunters, the report notes. For example, 41 percent of all land in the state that yields the highest number of trophy mule deer bucks is roadless. For elk hunters, the importance of roadless land is apparently obvious to the hunting community—of the 15 most-hunted game-management units in the state, 14 contain at least 66,000 acres of or roadless acres, and 12 have more than 100,000 backcountry acres. “Hunters have figured out where the elk and deer are, and they’re wisely taking advantage of these roadless lands,” said Mike Murphy, a Durango outfitter. “Not only is hunter success greater on roadless lands, but these lands provide summer feeding and nursery grounds to ensure we’ll have good hunting come fall. The more we encroach on roadless lands, the more pressure we put on elk and deer in Colorado, and the harder it becomes to find quality hunting.” In addition to highlighting the importance of roadless areas to angling and hunting success in the state, it also focuses on a few key roadless areas and how future development would hinder fish and game habitat and, as a result, successful hunting and fishing. Many areas, like the Mamm Peak Roadless Area east of Grand Junction and HD Mountains Roadless Area near Durango face real threats from aggressive energy development. This development would result in roads, well pads, collection pipes, all of which bisect game habitat and present potential problems to fish habitat thanks to erosion and pollution. “For sportsmen, roadless preservation should be atop their list of concerns when it comes to hunting and fishing in our state,” O’Donnell said. “The more acreage we lose, the harder it becomes to find pristine backcountry hunting and fishing destinations with healthy native fish populations and big-game herds.” - 30 -