Fishing-Hunting license required for all Colorado State Wildlife Areas as of 7/1/2020



A valid hunting or fishing license is required for everyone 18 or older attempting to access any State Wildlife Area or State Trust Land leased by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, beginning July 1, 2020. This does not apply to State Parks. (SWA FAQ)

The rule change was adopted unanimously on April 30 by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission.

 SWAs are intended for wildlife habitat and wildlife-related recreation (hunting and fishing). Unlike national forests or local government parks, SWAs are not “public lands” that provide for multi-use recreation. Most SWAs provide important resting, feeding, birthing, or breeding areas for Colorado wildlife. In that way, year ‘round outdoor recreation may have negative impacts on the wildlife populations in those areas. The license requirement is an effort to limit multi-use recreation on these properties, not encourage it. While hikers, photographers, birders, and others may in fact be recreating by watching wildlife, only those with a hunting or fishing license are contributing to the purchase and maintenance of these properties.


Funding for these properties is specifically generated by hunting and fishing license sales and the resulting federal funding match which comes from excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment sales. (Pittman-Robertson Act funds and Dingell-Johnson Act funds)

  • Requested options such as a “hiking license,” “birding license,” or “conservation permit” would not allow for the funding needed for maintenance and management of these wildlife areas, because federal funding for wildlife properties is specifically reduced by sales of products other than hunting and fishing licenses. The amount of money available from Pittman-Robertson funds for SWA operations is reduced by an amount equal to the revenue generated through the sale of products other than hunting and fishing licenses.
  • A previous attempt by the agency to use the Habitat Stamp for SWA access was unsuccessful because federal funding was reduced for the state; match dollars are reduced by the amount of any other type of access fee. Due to the federal funding model, anything other than a hunting or fishing license is not a viable option for much-needed match funds.

Colorado has a variety of public lands outside of SWAs intended for outdoor recreation. State, local, and national parks, as well as federal lands are all funded in ways that allow for multiple uses, including hiking, biking, kayaking, horseback riding, and cross country skiing. If a recreationist is opposed to supporting wildlife properties through the purchase of a hunting or fishing license, there are many tax-funded properties available for recreation.


CPW is surveying the SWA system to see which properties may be best suited for broader recreation. These decisions will be weighed by the wildlife uses of the property, potential seasonal closures to protect wildlife needs and compatibility for broader uses. CPW does not currently have a timeline for these decisions.


If you would like to voice your concerns to the CPW Commission, the email address is