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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How to Have Less Impact on our Natural Areas

This is the follow-up from my last article on Brainard Lake Hunting Regulations changes. I promised to give everyone some ideas on how to have less impact on Brainard Lake as we get out and enjoy the beauty of Colorado this spring and summer. But this isn't really just about Brainard Lake -- it's about taking care to minimize our impact no matter where we choose to enjoy nature.
  • Enjoy yourself, have fun, and stay safe.
  • Know and follow the regulations: if the area is under some kind of local, state, or federal jurisdiction (most are), make sure you know whether you can bring pets and whether your pets need to be leashed. Are you allowed to: hike off-path, consume alcohol, build fires, camp, fish, fly a kite, etc.? Most importantly, follow the regulations. They're in place for your safety and to protect others, the land, animals, and plants, too.
  • Know the local hunting seasons: if it's big-game season, don't go out there, or wear blaze orange to protect yourself. And most importantly, don't harass hunters. If they are hunting legally (the vast majority are), they have a right to be on the trails or in the backcountry, too. If you suspect someone is hunting illegally, contact local officials or law enforcement -- don't confront someone yourself.
  • Keep your pets under control at all times: this might mean a leash or voice control, depending on what's allowed. At Brainard Lake, dogs must be leashed in many parts of the recreation area. Most national parks don't allow dogs on trails at all. Wildlife views your dog as it would a wolf or coyote: a predator. And Fido may actually be a predator. I've personally had one dog who was fast and agile enough to take down rabbits and when she was giving chase, her hearing "magically" shut down. Needless to say, when I took her hiking I kept her under leash control so she wouldn't terrorize the wildlife. Remember, too, that some other trail users (people) may not appreciate your dog running up to them, and may even view your pet with fear. Keep in mind that small animals are stressed by your dog chasing them, and larger animals may confront and attack your dog. If you don't want an unexpected vet bill, ticket, or lawsuit, keep your dog under control.
  • If an area is posted as off-limits, don't go there: areas may be closed for restoration, bird nesting, your safety, or wildlife use. Please respect the agency governing the site and stay out of closed areas.
  • Be respectful of others: in other words, be NICE. Don't harass other users of the area. Clean up after yourself (pack out all of your trash). Use the restroom facilities provided. Do you remember all of that polite stuff that mom tried to teach you? Yeah, do it.
  • Stay a respectful distance from wildlife: for an idea of what this means, see this page for Yellowstone National Park.
  • If you're in an area with bears, know bear safety: again, Yellowstone National Park has a great write-up on this.
  • Bring appropriate clothing, food, and water: I could tell you dozens of stories about the inexperienced hikers I've seen going up into the Rocky Mountains for a hike while wearing only shorts, a T-shirt, and flip-flops and carrying nothing but a small bottle of water. I've also helped some people out of the backcountry who have been caught out without a jacket or water. Weather here can change very quickly. I've started off a hike with air temps of 80 deg F, and 4 hours later it was 40 degrees and snowing. Wear sturdy boots or hiking shoes. Carry extra food, water, and clothing, maybe even a first aid kit. Know how to keep yourself safe. Read books or take a class on backcountry skills (REI and many other outdoors stores offer them regularly).
  • Know your limits, and when to stay home: If you're feeling unsure of yourself, or unsafe in a situation, STOP. It's probably best to just go home. Don't push past your limits unless you're with an experienced guide, instructor, or mentor who can coach you through the tough spots. Even more important, don't let your companions try to talk you into doing something that you know is beyond your limits. You're not Iron Man or Captain America. You're an ordinary human with limits. If you want to increase your outdoors skills, take classes through local hiking clubs, outdoors stores, or recreation centers.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Brainard Lake Update: Hunting Regulations

Update: The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission met today (Jan 14, 2015) to hear the proposed solutions for the moose hunting situation at Brainard Lake Recreation Area, Colorado. In short, the Commission voted in favor of a 1/4 mile hunting exclusion zone as measured outward from the high water line of Brainard Lake. This will be effective each year, from the start of moose hunting season in early September until the gates close in early to mid October. Along with this hunting exclusion zone will be a concerted education and communications effort for everyone who uses that area (hunters, hikers, fishermen, campers, etc).

Colorado Parks and Wildlife worked hard with citizens groups on both sides of the issue to come to this compromise. Groups representing both hunters and non-hunters were part of the working group who contributed to the final proposal. We in the working group all agreed on the need for much more signage and education in the area. However, we agreed to disagree on how/if to proactively handle potential hunter/hiker conflict. In the end, it was up to the Commission to choose which option to implement (increased education only, or education plus some kind of hunting safety zone around the lake).

The Commission recognized and acknowledged the multi-use nature of the site, but several Commissioners noted that "multi-use" didn't include just hunters. They recognized that the non-hunting public, an increasing percentage of the population, also has rights and legitimate concerns. The Commission also generally recognized that the human population of Boulder and Larimer counties in Colorado is growing very quickly and that the Brainard Lake area is being more heavily used each year by the non-hunting public. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is facing a rapidly changing population - one which is composed of fewer hunters and more non-hunters each year. It was this recognition of the changing nature of the public using the area that prompted the decision to implement a hunting exclusion zone.

While I realize that many of you may have wanted a different outcome, I feel that this is a good starting point that will allow everyone continued access to the area. 

CPW and the citizens groups who worked on this compromise will continue to come together to draft education/communication materials and signage. We will also be helping with fundraising, as needed, to help CPW defray some of the costs associated with signage. Educational signage is expensive and CPW did not plan on this expense for Brainard Lake for the coming budget year (although they are working on allocating some funds). Hunters' advocacy groups volunteered to chip in funds for educational signage so it's my desire to see hikers, campers, and photographers also step up and help out as much as possible with this. After all, we share these areas - I'd like to see us follow the hunters' lead and contribute as well.

My next post will include ways that you can help make both yourself and our recreation areas safer for all to enjoy...

Text and photos copyright Nancy Rynes, 2015. You may link to this article, but please do not copy any of it without my written permission.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Results of meetings with Colorado Parks and Wildlife re: Moose Hunting

Results of meetings with Colorado Parks and Wildlife

December 17, 2014

After much discussion, the various camps involved in the Brainard Lake moose hunting meetings agreed to disagree. This means that we did not reach any kind of workable consensus. The non-hunting citizens stuck to the need for a hunting safety zone around Brainard Lake, in addition to beefing up educational efforts. The hunter's groups only agreed to increased educational efforts.  They did not want any kind of hunting exclusion instituted at Brainard Lake. They felt that increased education would be enough to alleviate any further conflict between hunting and non-hunting users of the area.

Some of the options that were bandied about to resolve the situation:

A) Increased Education only (hunting regulations stay the same): increase signage and education of park staff, non-hunting visitors, and hunters. This would include increased training for staff, posting various signage about hunting and the ecosystem of Brainard, increased education for the hunters drawing tags for that area, increased education of non-hunting public via the various websites, adding variable message boards during hunting season, education about responsible dog walking practices, etc. No change to hunting regulations.

B) Option A + allow hunting across the entire Brainard Lake area ONLY on weekdays (weekends would be closed to hunting in the entire recreation area). This would limit the conflict between the majority of non-hunting visitors and the hunters since most of the visitors to the area come on weekends. This is termed a "temporal closure."

C) Option A + 1/4 mile "safety" zone around Brainard Lake, measured from the high water line of the lake. The campground would be in the "no-hunt" zone because it is an occupied area (meaning that it has structures and more or less continual use by people). This option would limit hunting from the most-visited areas on ALL days of the week. The citizen's petition asked for a 1 mile zone from the lake but I can tell you that's not workable from the standpoint of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. I can settle for 1/4 mile zone, although I would prefer 1/2 mile zone. This 1/4 mile zone is the plan that Colorado Parks and Wildlife initially proposed in response to this incident.

D) Hybrid = Options A + B + C. How would this work? Hunting would be allowed everywhere at Brainard Lake during the weekdays. On the weekends only there would be a 1/4 mile No-Hunt zone around the lake. Personally, I feel this could be workable BUT I also feel that it is overly-complicated and worry a bit about enforcement.

My preference for simplicity is option C, although I could live with option D if push came to shove. This is assuming that CPW can enforce a combined temporal and spatial safety zone.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is committed to getting this issue resolved this year and really does not want to revisit it next year. They have also received a tremendous amount of feedback both from concerned citizens and certain Colorado state senators who are pushing for a workable solution. No one wants a repeat of what happened this year, that much is clear. I was feeling good about CPW's commitment to come to a workable solution today and would like your input on these proposed solutions.

Parks and Wildlife wants your input on which of these options you would like to see implemented. First, please respond to the survey in the message that follows this one. Second, you can contact me via email ( to voice your opinion and I will forward them along to Larry Rogstad at CPW.

ALL correspondence to CPW on this issue will be included in the final position paper and forwarded along to the CPW Commission for final approval, so please be courteous, thoughtful, and polite.