Colorado lottery funds set aside for sportsmen.

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Lottery funds set aside for sportsmen.

State agency shifts interests to benefit hunters, anglers

By Charlie Meyers, Denver Post Outdoor Editor

Wednesday, August 22, 2001 - Hunters and fishermen who play the lottery in its various forms are about to receive a lot more bang for their bucks.

Accelerating a recent trend, Great Outdoors Colorado, the agency that distributes up to $46 million of the funds raised each year through the Colorado Lottery and Powerball, figures to spend more on acquisitions that benefit sportsmen.

"We'll be asking how we can aggressively pursue recreational benefits in our land protection projects," GoCo director John Hereford said.

Hereford, who became head of the agency in January, is an avid sportsman and a pragmatist who understands the increasing need for hunting and fishing property in a state beset by a population explosion.

"We'll never get to the point where recreation access is a total match in our projects, but properties certainly will score higher on our assessment if this element is present," Hereford said. By statute, GoCo's disbursements are shared equally among Colorado State Parks, Colorado Division of Wildlife, local governments and open space.

Time was, GoCo shied away from any acquisition that might include hunting. Fishing seldom made much of a blip on the radar screen, either. Now, with changes in the agency's board of directors and administration, plus a solid nudge from the governor's office, the shift has begun.

More recently, GoCo has contributed substantially to projects that include:

A $3.12 million grant to add 5,400 acres to the DOW's Cherokee State Wildlife Area northwest of Fort Collins, prime habitat for big game with public hunting and limited angling.

A $500,000 contribution to Bosque del Oso State Wildlife Area in Las Animas County, 30,000 acres of prime big game habitat and hunting.

A $500,000 award to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to acquire a conservation easement on 3,600 acres in the upper Purgatoire River watershed adjacent to Bosque del Oso. Public hunting may occur with RMEF permission.

A $449,000 grant to Douglas County and DOW for four properties totaling 1,016 acres in the Sharptail Ridge area, with limited foot-only hunting access.

A $8.1 million contribution to the Colorado Wetlands Initiative for protection of 13,196 acres of wetlands and 85,339 acres of associated uplands in the San Luis Valley, North Park and along the South Platte River, all benefiting waterfowl.

A $6.5 million grant toward acquisition of 16 miles of Brush Creek in Eagle County, providing fishing and access through the property to other public hunting areas.

Provided a $1 million loan to the Conservation Fund, which acquired the 3,793-acre Gateview Ranch, with 2.75 miles of river access on the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River. The property ultimately was purchased by the Bureau of Land Management.

Awarded more than $10 million for conservation easements on 6,500 acres along the Yampa River west of Steamboat Springs. Conservation and public access are integrated on nearly half the property, with fishing along 4 miles of the river.

If Hereford has his way, the pace will increase.

"We'll be exploring mechanisms to make recreation access a greater priority and to discover more innovative ways to work with the DOW," Hereford said.

That's a gamble everyone can win.
 

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