At its virtual meeting last week, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission voted unanimously to approve a new Colorado State Wildlife Area Pass as an option to access state wildlife areas. The new pass will go on sale May 1, 2021.
“This is an important step in ensuring everyone who visits our state wildlife areas is contributing to their management and maintenance,” said CPW Director Dan Prenzlow.
The annual Colorado SWA Pass will be available on May 1, 2021 by visiting any CPW office or online at cpwshop.com. The pass will be priced similarly to a resident annual fishing license and revenue from the new SWA pass will be used to manage and maintain SWAs.
Colorado State Wildlife Area Pass
1 day: $9
Youth (ages 16-17) annual: $10.07
Senior (ages 65 and older) annual: $10.07
Low-income annual: $10.07
(Fees include a $1.50 Wildlife Education Fund surcharge)
*Plus a fee of $10.40 for a Colorado Wildlife Habitat Stamp
The annual pass is valid from March 1 – March 31 of the following year, also aligning with the 13-month season for fishing licenses in Colorado.
History and funding of state wildlife areas in Colorado
CPW now manages more than 350 SWAs, all set aside to conserve wildlife habitat with dollars from hunting and angling licenses. Those funds are also matched with federal income from the excise taxes collected on the sale of hunting and fishing equipment.
While these properties have been identified as critical wildlife habitat, over the years they have also gained significant value for outdoor recreationists.
Because these properties have always been open to the public, not just to the hunters and anglers that purchased them and pay for their maintenance, many people now visit these properties and use them as they would any other public land.
As Colorado’s population - and desire for outdoor recreation - has continued to grow, a significant increase in traffic to these SWAs has disrupted wildlife, the habitat the areas were acquired to protect, and the hunters and anglers whose contributions were critical to acquiring these properties.
That’s why in July of 2020, new regulations went into effect requiring all visitors 18 or older to possess a valid hunting or fishing license to access any SWA leased by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
CPW had historically been bound by stringent guidance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on how income earned from these properties could be accounted for, making the creation of another kind of pass to access these areas financially unfeasible. But in late 2020, CPW received approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for a new accounting approach that made adding a pass as an option for access to these properties feasible.
In November 2020, an SWA Working Group was created with CPW staff and stakeholders from around the state to determine what a new pass might look like.
A new State Wildlife Area Pass
At its January 2021 meeting, the CPW Commission heard recommendations from the SWA Working Group on creating a new Colorado SWA Pass.
The group recommended pricing the annual pass at a similar level to the annual fishing license, offering discounted passes to youth and seniors priced comparably to youth and senior fishing licenses, offering a 1-day pass option priced comparably to the 1-day parks pass, requiring a Habitat Stamp and a surcharge for the Wildlife Management Public Education Fund in addition to the pass, and offering a discounted low-income annual pass option. The age at which a hunting license, fishing license or SWA pass is required to access SWAs was reduced to all persons 16 years and older to better correspond to the youth pass and license options.
Now that the Colorado SWA Pass is available, the SWA Working Group will move into Phase II of its work, completing an audit of all Colorado’s SWAs to determine which properties may require additional restrictions on allowed activities, seasonal closures for wildlife, and reviews to determine if the property is still meeting its intended purpose as a wildlife area.
More information and SWA FAQ about CPW’s state wildlife areas is available on CPW’s website.
From the CPW FAQ page at [log in for link]
Q: What licenses or passes will be acceptable to access SWAs? (annuals, daily, big game, turkey, mountain lion, Colorado SWA Pass)
Annual hunting and fishing licenses, including all big game hunting licenses, small game hunting licenses, turkey licenses, and annual fishing licenses, as well as annual Colorado State Wildlife passes will be accepted to access SWAs for the current license year, March 1 through March 31 of the following year. Daily Colorado SWA passes and daily or multi-day fishing or small game licenses are only valid on the date(s) indicated on the license or pass.