If a new political action committee in Colorado has its way, an all-out ban on mountain lion hunting will become state law. Advocates recently filed for a citizen initiative to be placed on the 2024 Colorado ballot.
Titled “Prohibit Trophy Hunting,” Initiative 91 states “any trophy hunting of mountain lions, bobcats, or lynx is inhumane” and “trophy hunting is practiced primarily for the display of an animal’s head, fur, or other body parts, rather than for utilization of the meat.” However, the definition of trophy hunting that the regulation creates makes no distinction from any other type of hunting.
The proposal got its first public hearing on October 6th by the Colorado Legislative Council Staff, with future steps involving the state attorney general and secretary of state to approve the title and description. Legislative staff issued an eight-page memo pointing out problems with the proposal, most of which were grammatical or technical. However, state attorneys pointed out discrepancies in the description of “trophy hunting” and the proposed statutory definition, suggesting that the petitioners drop the term “trophy” or specifically allow hunting to continue if hunters harvest the meat from lions (which is already required under existing game laws). While this review process may slow down the process slightly, Coloradans should expect an anti-lion-hunting measure will soon proceed to the signature gathering stage.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) estimates the state has one of the largest such populations in the country. It uses precise regulations, quotas and guidelines to closely manage mountain lions as part of its management plan, that already requires hunters to use meat from their harvests. CPW also points out that “carefully regulated mountain lion hunting is one form of ‘wildlife-related recreational opportunity’ mentioned in Colorado statute.
A Colorado legislator proposed a similar hunting ban in 2022. Hundreds of RMEF members rallied to successfully convince their legislators to defeat it.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation strongly opposes Initiative 91 since it ignores the basics tenants of proven, science-based wildlife management in line with the North American Wildlife Conservation Model that fish and wildlife belong to all Americans, and that they need to be managed in a way that their populations will be sustained forever.
Speaking at a January 2020 news conference about the Colorado initiative to forcibly introduce wolves into the state, RMEF President Kyle Weaver referred to that effort as “’ballot box biology’ – a strategy used by agenda driven extremists to usurp wildlife professional’s knowledge and authority related to complicated wildlife management issues.” This initiative follows the same game plan since CPW, along with its science-based management, professional biologists and wildlife managers, could not and cannot comment on the measure by law, like it could not about the 2020 wolf measure.
RMEF has a long conservation history in Colorado. Dating back to 1987, RMEF and its partners completed 843 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects there with a combined value of more than $201.8 million. These projects conserved or enhanced 501,957 acres of habitat and opened or improved public access to 119,587 acres. There are currently nearly 15,000 members and 29 RMEF chapters in Colorado.
The group behind Initiative 91 has representatives who worked for PETA, the Sierra Club and other animal welfare organizations, one of whom currently serves as vice-chair of the Rocky Mountain Wolf Project, the organization behind the wolf ballot initiative.
Initiative 91 needs 124,238 verified signatures to qualify for the ballot.
(Photo source: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)