Stamping out confusion about the Habitat Stamp

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By Vicky Gits

Since January 2006, the state has required anyone using the Mount Evans or Bergen Peak state wildlife areas to obtain a Habitat Stamp, amounting to a $10.25 fee to hike or camp on the land.

But don’t expect to purchase an actual stamp when you buy the Habitat Stamp. The Habitat Stamp is merely a series of characters printed out on a plain blue piece of paper, with all the glamour of a receipt from a gas pump.

Also, be aware that the picture of a stamp on the sign in the accompanying photo does not represent the state-mandated Habitat Stamp.

Confused? Read on.

The collectible stamp — bearing the image of a dual-elk silhouette — is sold through the Colorado Wildlife Heritage Foundation office in Denver. It is voluntary and also costs $10. But there are no wildlife-area access privileges attached to it — it simply represents a donation and a show of support for habitat protection.

Meanwhile, hunters and anglers pay $5 for the Habitat Stamp, which is added onto their annual hunting or fishing license. By law, 60 percent of the money received from the stamp is to be spent to benefit “big-game winter range or big-game migration corridors.” Those 18 and under or 65 and older are not required to purchase stamps.

Almost all the money raised through the Habitat Stamp program is derived from hunters and anglers who frequent state wildlife areas.

But the signs posted at entrances to the popular wildlife areas don’t specify that lack of payment entails a $68 ticket — for anyone using the land. For hunters and anglers, not having a stamp also means a 5-point penalty against one’s hunting and fishing privileges.

The rule applies to 241 designated state wildlife areas covering 493,400 acres and 316 state trust lands totalaing 533,733 acres statewide, including the Mount Evans State Wildlife Area in Clear Creek County.

Last year the Habitat Stamp program raised nearly $4 million for various habitat protection programs, said Jennifer Churchill, a spokeswoman for the Division of Wildlife.

The Habitat Stamp program was created under the Owens administration by legislation with support from sportsmen and conservationists. It has a sunset provision of 2010.

Program acqusitions are reviewed and rated by a nine-member citizens committee appointed by the governor. The Colorado Wildlife Commssion makes the final decision.

“There are many good things that result from the Habitat Stamp — people can feel proud they are contributing to habitat for wildlife in Colorado,” Churchill said.

A couple of the largest purchases include the 1,600-acre Miller Ranch in Gunnison County, a big-game winter range and migration lane, sage grouse habitat and public access, for $6.5 million. In Moffat County, stamp money purchased a 3,184-acre easement for big-game winter range and greater sage grouse protection, including 2,400 acres of hunting access and fishing stream access in the Cold Springs Mountain area.

For information on purchasing Habitat Stamps, visit www.wildlife.state.co.us/ShopDOW/AppsAndLicenses. For information on state wildlife areas, visit www.wildlife.state.co.us/LandWater/StateWildlifeAreas/swa.

Habitat stamp facts

(Source: Division of Wildlife)

Applies to use of State Wildlife Areas only

• Seniors 65 and older are exempt but still must have a free fishing license in their possession.

• The stamps cost $10.25 separately from a hunting or fishing license and includes a 25-cent search-and-rescue fee.

• Sixty percent of the money collected in the first five years must be spent on big-game winter range and migration corridors. The remaining 40 percent can be used for other habitat preservation/acquisition efforts throughout the state.

• By combining money collected from Habitat stamp sales with grants from Great Outdoors Colorado and other sources, the Division of Wildlife has protected 35,000 acres as of August 2008, since the stamp program was initiated in 2006.

• Stamps can be purchased online at www.wildlife.co.us, by phone at 800-244-5613, at Colorado Division of Wildlife service centers or anywhere hunting and fishing licenses are sold.

• The penalty for not buying a stamp is $68 and 5 points off a license.