Out to Lunch with
Colorado Parks and Wildlife
By Chloe Elliott
Empowering Exploration in Colorado Through Education
Few states are more well-known for their abundant wildlife and wilderness than Colorado, which is why LIV Sotheby’s International Realty caught up with Public Information Supervisor, Travis Duncan and Area Wildlife Manager, Matt Yamashita of Colorado Parks and Wildlife for this edition of Out to Lunch. Welcoming millions of visitors to the great outdoors each year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is a state agency that has the critical job of conserving and managing our state’s natural resources across 2.5 million geographically diverse acres. From the rugged Rocky Mountains to desert canyons and mesas to expansive grasslands, doing this is a delicate balancing act, prioritizing the well-being of wildlife and their habitat with the recreational desires of people looking to experience the natural wonders of Colorado’s vast landscape.

Acting as stewards of the outdoors, Travis, Matt, and their 900 colleagues at CPW work to educate and inspire current and future generations to get outside responsibly and respectfully, whether you’re casting a line into the Colorado River, ascending a high peak on foot, or simply camping in the backyard. During our conversations with Travis and Matt, they gave us an inside look at what they learned from COVID-19, what to expect in the coming year, and shared tips on how we can be responsible recreationists in our daily lives.

As a result of the pandemic, many of us found ourselves in the outdoors more than ever before. “We learned how valuable it is to Coloradans and folks visiting from out of state to have access to the outdoors and because of this, we saw visits to our public lands and our hunting and fishing license sales increase significantly,” shared Travis. “Access to the Colorado outdoor lifestyle proved very important to people’s physical and mental well-being during stressful times.” The healing power of nature is undeniable, and the attraction of Colorado’s 42 State Parks, 414 State Trust Lands, and 350 State Wildlife Areas (SWA) is at an all-time high, with state park visitation rising from 15 million in 2019 to north of 19 million in 2021. While this increase is welcomed by CPW, it is essential for the public to understand the impact of this increase so we can protect the outdoors as we know it for generations to come.

Operating a world-class parks system over the last few years has taught CPW a lot about wildlife management and visitor and traffic management. During the pandemic, many of us grew accustomed to making reservations for all kinds of outings, including visits to many nationally operated lands like Rocky Mountain National Park and Hanging Lake. Learnings from these reservations and timed entry systems are now being adapted by CPW and implemented in a small number of high-traffic areas. Eldorado Canyon State Park is one area where visitors will have to make timed entry reservations this summer. Visitation has increased 118% since 2013, and the popular park near Boulder often reaches vehicle capacity so starting in August visitors will have to make free two-hour vehicle reservations on weekends and holidays. “We’re seeing a lot of positive reaction to this pilot project,” said Travis referring to the new policy. By utilizing timed entry technology, CPW can inform visitors as they’re planning their adventures rather than have them show up to full parking lots and crowded areas. Doing this enhances the experience outdoors and helps regulate the impact of high traffic on the environment. In addition to timed entry, the state agency now requires a valid fishing or hunting license or an SWA pass to visit any of the 350 State Wildlife Areas. This new requirement helps fund their initiatives and mitigates the number of visitors taking part in the condoned activities of these areas. “We’re trying to open access to the outdoors for as many people as we can and do so in a way that doesn’t hurt the habitat or user experience,” Travis explained.

State Parks
State Trust Lands
State Wildlife Areas
ram on grass hill
How can you support Colorado Parks and Wildlife?
  1. Sign up to be a volunteer at cpwconnect.state.co.us
  2. Starting in 2023, purchase a Keep Colorado Wild Pass the next time you register your vehicle
  3. Purchase a hunting or fishing license, a State Wildlife Area Pass, or a State Parks Pass
  4. Take part in Colorado Recreates Responsibly Week, a proclamation by Governor Jared Polis that reminds Coloradans to #CareforColorado and #RecreateResponsibly around Labor Day
  5. Stay informed and spread your knowledge!
mama bear with three cubs
Another way CPW is moderating the impact of excess visitors in the outdoors is by relying on their 4,000 annual volunteers. “We are incredibly grateful for the folks who come out and volunteer with the agency,” said Travis. “It makes a huge difference and helps us make a difference in Colorado’s outdoors.” CPW volunteers help the agency in three core areas: picking up trash and debris, orienting visitors who are enjoying multipurpose areas (for example, trails that welcome both bikers and hikers), and most of all, acting as informative friendly faces out in nature.

While CPW’s current policies and volunteer support have and will continue to help them on the path to protecting and promoting wildlife and their habitat, we must take responsibility for our actions both at home and outdoors. The best way Travis informed us we can do this is by adhering to The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace. “All recreation has an impact, and we’ve seen such a huge increase in folks who want to get outside, which is what makes Colorado so great, but to keep it that way, we all need to learn these principles and practice them when we’re enjoying the outdoors.”

The appeal of Colorado’s mountain views, high-alpine lakes, sprawling mesas, and countless canyons is matched by the desire to see the majestic animals that inhabit these areas. Throughout 66 million acres, an astonishing 960 wildlife species call Colorado home. For those who have driven down I-70 or spent time at one of the many ski resorts in our state, you’ve likely seen or heard of the most well-known species- bighorn sheep, black bears, elk, moose, and mountain lions- all of which co-exist with us in our mountain communities. However, beyond that, there are hundreds of other animals throughout Colorado that make the varying environments and ecosystems whole, from aquatic wildlife like the cutthroat trout to waterfowl like ducks and geese. “Every species in our state can be found throughout our state parks, wildlife areas, and public lands,” explained Matt. The wildlife sector of the agency- recreation, management, law enforcement, and education- manages a vast network of 2.5 million acres to ensure that all animals in the state, not just the ones that visitors most commonly think of, are protected and promoted. “People always think about the animal they see walking around on legs when they think of animals in Colorado, “ joked Matt, “but they often forget about the ones with fins or wings.”
66 million acres
960 wildlife species
While enjoying the outdoors, it is natural to think of the immediate impact on the dirt beneath our feet as we explore, but we also need to understand the effect our presence has on wildlife, too. From increased traffic on the trails to basic preventative measures at home, human behavior plays a role in the well-being of animals. “We know that people want to be a part of wildlife,” commented Matt, but this increase in human traffic adds stress on Colorado’s native species. Through the years, CPW has seen negative trends related to the impact of people in the outdoors on animal migration, distribution, and seasonality. Wildlife, like people, have only so much tolerance for change, and as traffic in these wildlife habitats increases exponentially, animals react accordingly. In addition to the mere presence of people outdoors, the most significant contributor to this change in behavior stems from visitors lacking spatial awareness and understanding. “We know people want to embrace connectivity with the resource [the outdoors], but when it comes to wildlife, we need them to embrace connectivity from a distance,” said Matt empathetically. Aligned with Travis’ recommendation for knowing and adhering to The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace, the sixth principle is to “respect wildlife”, which Matt elaborated on, “we call it The Rule of Thumb; if you fully extend your arm and your thumb does not cover the entire animal, you’re too close. If your thumb covers the animal, you are at an appropriate distance to observe and enjoy the wildlife.” This rule is beneficial not only for CPW’s conflict species- bears, mountain lions, and moose- but in general, to ensure that you’re maintaining a respectful and safe distance from all animals you encounter while outside.
Pictured: Hanging Lake, Glenwood Canyon, Colorado
The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Others
Three Tips to Prevent Wildlife Conflict
  1. Maintain a respectful distance (use the Rule of Thumb!)
  2. Keep dogs on a leash
  3. Secure trash and birdfeeders
Everything that CPW does comes down to biology. Working in a proactive manner, CPW relies on their officers, like Matt, who are all biologists, to utilize science to inform decisions, mitigate negative animal encounters and ultimately maintain sustainable population dynamics. Now that we’ve established the proper ways to conduct ourselves in the wilderness, we must also know how to act at home. CPW officers spend much of their time responding to preventable situations, particularly with bears, so while enjoying the great indoors of your home and neighborhood, Matt shared three tips for preventing wildlife conflicts.

As we enter into the best months of summer, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and LIV Sotheby’s International Realty want to encourage you to get outdoors but do so responsibly. Colorado’s wilderness is undeniably inspiring, and by becoming educated adventurers, you can continue fueling your passion for the outdoors while knowing your enjoyment isn’t infringing upon the well-being of wildlife and the environment. So, the next time you take out the trash, hike a 14er, or simply stop and take in the views, we hope you’ll think of the valuable work CPW does and the essential information you’ve learned so we can all continue to live the life we love, outdoors.

Travis Duncan
Travis Duncan
Public Information Supervisor, Statewide
Favorite State Park/Trail: Lathrop State Park
Favorite Way to Get Outside: Fishing or Hiking
Colorado Hidden Gem: Rifle Falls State Park
Matt Yamashita
Matt Yamashita
Area Wildlife Manager, Area 8
Favorite State Park/Trail: The Colorado Trail
Favorite Way to Get Outside: Fishing
Colorado Hidden Gem: Maroon Bells