FoA sues CPW for forcing nature lovers to carry hunting licenses


Friends of Animals has filed a lawsuit in state court against Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) over its requirement of a valid hunting or fishing license to access any State Wildlife Area or State Trust Land even if someone just wants to hike, birdwatch, take photographs or simply get their nature fix.

“This desperate attempt to pump up the numbers of dwindling hunters in Colorado is sneaky and obscene and CPW should not get away with it,” said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals. “There is no way to know if someone is purchasing a hunting license to hunt or to go bird watching. This is problematic because the state is required to report the number of hunters for allocation of hunting-related conservation funds made available to the state. The higher the number of hunters, the more funding. This new regulation will obviously skew the numbers of hunters that Colorado can report.” 

The number of paid hunting license holders in Colorado decreased about 10 percent from 1990- 2020, from 327,979 in 1990 to 295,451 in 2020. And the total number of resident and non-resident hunting license, tag, stamps and permit holders decreased 5 percent from 1990 to 2020 in Colorado.

Yet, according to the 2011 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and & Wildlife Associated Recreation, there were a staggering 1.8 million wildlife watchers.

In its complaint filed in the Second Judicial District Court in Colorado FoA states the new rule imposes on a person to express the message that they approve of hunting and fishing when all they want to do is enjoy nature and wildlife and that CPW doesn’t have the authority to enact the new requirement. FoA also states the regulation violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment and violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments by restricting access.

“Someone opposed to shooting animals dead for fun should not be required to pay for and sign a hunting license to gain access to public lands for recreational purposes. It’s absurd,” Feral added.

It’s time for Colorado to consider alternative ways to fund conservation efforts on public lands, such as adopting recreational pass fees, for state parks and other areas. Currently less than 4 percent of all Americans take pleasure in killing wildlife.

“That number is ridiculously low, in a good way, and continues to drop,” said Michael Harris, director of Friends of Animals’ Colorado-based Wildlife Law Program. “Despite Colorado’s efforts to advertise that hunting and fishing is the backbone of conservation funding in the state, increasingly it is not true. The new regulations simply seek to skew the numbers so it looks like hunting is more popular then it is. But in the long run, we need to be serious about looking elsewhere for funding and stop perpetuating the myth about the importance of hunting.”