The BEST Season is Underway in Leadville!
It’s exactly the type of mid-fall morning weather that hunters love, with Mother Nature leaving behind a trace of snow on the forest floor and open meadows, providing telltale tracks of which direction the antlered herd was headed. So as the rifle season shifts into high gear this time of year, Leadville Today (LT) provides a 2019 Hunting Season update, particularly as it pertains to Lake County.
Hunters are good for the economy. They not only purchase hunting gear, trucks, ATVs and boats; they also fill their gas tanks and coolers. They stay at motels and resorts. According to the financial forecasters, hunting contributes $919 million in total economic impact to Colorado. Reports indicate that a five-day elk hunt trip runs around $6,000.
Hunting and the BEST Grant
But when it comes to Lake County, there’s another new benefit from hunting. The sport will now help build new schools. While many readers are familiar with the Department of Education’s Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) program which can be used for the construction of new schools, like the 2014 renovation of Lake County High School or the proposed new elementary school which will be put before voters on November 5, many are unfamiliar with how these monies are generated.
And that’s important because in July there was a shift that could very well change the bottom-line for BEST monies, possibly providing a more long-term solution to funding rural schools and easing the urgent-message timeline many districts seem to face. Did you know that the primary funding source for BEST grants comes from land leases? And with at least half a million new acres being opened up to hunting and fishing in 2019 on Colorado trust land across the state, additional funding for schools has been locked in for years to come. Here’s how it works.
Since its statehood in 1876, three million acres of land in Colorado has been held in trust for the purpose of funding public schools. In fact, in the past decade, a staggering $1.4 billion has been generated for Colorado public schools and have been also been the primary funding source for the BEST grants.
But this past July, there was even more good news for the future availability of BEST funding, when the Parks and Wildlife Commission (PWC) and the State Land Board approved a multi-year effort to double the size of the Public Access Program for these trust lands from 480,000 acres to up to one million acres. Funding through hunting and fishing license fee increases was approved by the General Assembly in 2018 in the “Future Generations Act.” This is the first major expansion of the program since it began in 1993.
This now provides seasonal hunting and fishing opportunities on Colorado trust land across the state, including.
- Blue Lake – 41,564 acres – Arlington, CO (Southeast Colorado)
- Queens – 9,020 acres – Eads, CO (Southeast Colorado)
- Pawnee Valley – 2,720 acres – Sterling, CO (Northeast Colorado)
- Brett Gray Ranch – 23,878 acres – Rush, CO (Open September 1 for dove hunting. CPW expects additional hunting opportunities will be available later this fall.)
- Check out the Colorado Hunting Atlas, an interactive map that depicts all trust land enrolled in the Public Access Program.
And, as the hunting season pushes on, state officials appear confident about the future funding of educational programs such as BEST grants as even more lands held in trust are opened up for public access to help support the schools.
“Hunters and anglers are a critical foundation to wildlife conservation,” said Dan Prenzlow, CPW director. “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.”
And they are not done yet. In 2020, CPW will announce the locations of additional properties that will be enrolled in the Public Access Program prior to the 2020 fall hunting season.
“I’m glad that hunters and anglers will have more access to state trust lands in Colorado this season, and I’m grateful for the cooperation we’ve gotten from the ranchers and farmers who already lease these properties for agriculture,” said Greg Ochis, State Land Board Assistant Director. “These leasing activities stimulate the local economies and also help generate money for Colorado school kids.”
New Hunting Grounds at Fish Hatchery
In regard to the 2019 hunting season, one of the biggest impacts for Lake County was reported by LT back in September. The Trump Administration announced in August that it was expanding hunting and fishing in 77 national wildlife refuges, including one in Colorado, more affectionately known as the Leadville National Fish Hatchery.
While Fish and Wildlife officials insist that “this is nothing new,” as the season reaches its peak, the tracks in the snow don’t lie and LT always welcomes field input at firstname.lastname@example.org. Readers can connect with “New Hunting Open at Hatchery?” story HERE.