Friends of Animals filed a lawsuit Sept. 1 in District Court against Colorado Parks & Wildlife to challenge regulations the agency recently approved that prohibit many forms of non-consumptive recreation in State Wildlife Areas and arbitrarily favors hunting and fishing.
The regulations, which went into effect Aug. 1, restrict or ban activities such as hiking, paddle boarding, dog walking, camping, and in some cases public access altogether, because of supposed negative impacts on wildlife. However, CPW inexplicably allows someone who is hunting or fishing to engage in those same activities.
“CPW is saying that shooting animals to death is not disruptive or harmful to them, but wildlife watching is,” said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals. “That’s not only insane, but it’s also deceitful discrimination against most Coloradans who don’t find joy in killing and consuming wildlife.
“A miniscule five percent of Colorado residents hunt and six percent fish. CPW is desperate to save an industry headed for extinction instead of coming up with intelligent, sane ways to steward the natural world without money from guns and ammo.”
FoA’s lawsuit states that CPW, which manages more than 350 SWAs, has no evidence that the non-consumptive, wildlife-related recreational activities that the regulations restrict or ban have a different impact on the SWAs than the same activities engaged in by people who are hunting and fishing.
“CPW has absolutely no justification to ban camping if someone is not hunting, but allow camping if they are hunting. It makes no sense,” said Jennifer Best, director of FoA’s Wildlife Law Program. “The same principle applies to having dogs, biking and rafting. SWAs exist to protect wildlife and provide for wildlife-related recreation. This lawsuit seeks to ensure that CPW’s discriminatory regulations are changed to represent the full breadth of wildlife-related recreationalists.”
Best also points out that outdoor recreation and the ability to view wildlife in their natural habitats are among the main draws that bring people to, and keep them in, Colorado.
“Plus, non-consumptive activities such as photography or birdwatching teach people how to be responsible stewards of the land and to respect our native wildlife,” Best said. “Not to mention state law directs CPW to offer the greatest possible variety of wildlife-related recreational opportunity to the residents of this state and its visitors, yet these regulations do the exact opposite.”
This is not the first time CPW has favored hunters and fishers. In 2020, CPW passed a regulation that required all entrants to SWAs to purchase a hunting or fishing license. Only after Friends of Animals filed a lawsuit against the agency did CPW reconsider that requirement and then created a pass for non-consumptive users, the SWA Access Pass. CPW proceeded to charge more for the SWA Access Pass than it charges for a resident annual fishing or small game hunting license.