Population Growth and Hunting in Rocky Mountain States

Oak

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“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.” ― Edward Abbey

Back to the original question of what we can expect as populations grow in the RM states: I expect that the more generous states such as WY and CO will eventually reduce NR opportunity to something approximating what other states already have, around 10% of total opportunity. I think it would be a hard sell to go lower than that, but I was wrong once before.
 

SnowyMountaineer

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On the topic of the thread...
-The reasons for shifting patterns of residence and population in the Rocky Mountain West are clearly complicated and variables confounded. Like nearly any nuanced topic, anyone who has the "why" all figured out is usually the most full of BS. The fact that it's happening is undeniable though.
-For the reasons Oak and Fin identified, hunting opportunity is nearly guaranteed to decrease in the near, mid, and distant future.
-I fall in the camp of focusing on habitat conservation while we can, and while it still makes a measurable difference in population viability. Some people dig the politics-first route, seems like a good way to live the rest of your life being angry if you ask me. In reality even the best conservation efforts and collaborations can't and won't be able to do it all--but they can and will do some.
-"X" years down the road, when there is less opportunity, the vast majority of hunters will be whining more than ever about the good old days. A handful will make a conscious choice to relish what memories were made, and take deeper joy in what they have left to experience. Circumstances at a regional scale are rarely negotiable, how you react to them is. Like the the saying goes, when it's all said and done there'll be a lot more said than done.
 

wllm1313

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I fall in the camp of focusing on habitat conservation while we can, and while it still makes a measurable difference in population viability. Some people dig the politics-first route, seems like a good way to live the rest of your life being angry if you ask me. In reality even the best conservation efforts and collaborations can't and won't be able to do it all--but they can and will do some.
Along those lines: You can argue it that it's not, but I think to some extent we are near carrying capacity for elk in the west. Therefore if CO, WY, and MT really want to get serious about resident opportunity we really need to look hard at expanding opportunities across the US.

Currently we are looking at ~ 1 million elk in the US.
Current total NR opportunity is ~137,000
The average rate of tag allocation for herd size is 70% (7 elk tags for 10 elk) so 178,314 elk would be able to provide for all of the current NR opportunity in the US.

Essentially if we can expand the US elk population by 18% you could eliminate NR elk hunting without changing opportunity, not that should every happen... but putting elk in the east will helps reduce pressure in the west.

As @ElkFever2 pointed out, there is actually a net migration out of the midwest and east, there is opportunity for expansion. Currently efforts have been stymied by money, human tolerated carry capacity, and now the fact that reservoir populations i.e. Colorado are infected with CWD.

As part of the recent season structure conversation in CO, residents have discussed and been asked what changes they would like to see and what they would be willing to give up to see those happen.

One of the questions that is floated is how important to you is it to be able to hunt every year. It's definitely an important factor for me, I don't necessarily need OTC opportunity but I want to be able to get a tag. Along those lines I'm not sure I'm willing to allow more NR opportunity in CO if it means I have to give up my yearly hunt.

I will would however be willing to hunt every other year or every 3rd year if those elk that I was missing out on were being used as seed to grow our national herd.

Sure it's a bit pie in the sky, but maybe the solution to crowding and herd health is for CO to cut 30k tags, WY and MT to each cut 3K and for all three states to provide 5,500 (4,500 + 500 +500) elk a year to other states.



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Current v. Historic elk range via RMEF website
http://www.rmef.org/Conservation/WhereWeConserve.aspx?elkrange=true&projects=false&restore=false&_ga=2.180748455.1482131630.1562686407-546668209.1560350546
 

3855WIN

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Western States might do well to charge an immigration tax for new residents. Charge each new resident $1,000 per year for the first five years they become residents, then use that money to purchase wild habitat to be used for outdoor activities.
 

wllm1313

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It seems like water will be a limiting factor for continued population growth for much of the West. There’s only so much Colorado River to go around.
“Throughout its history, the conservation movement had been little more than a minor nuisance to the water-development interests in the American West. They had, after all, twice managed to invade National Parks with dams; they had decimated the greatest salmon fishery in the world, in the Columbia River; they had taken the Serengeti of North America—the virgin Central Valley of California, with its thousands of grizzly bears and immense clouds of migratory waterfowl and its million and a half antelope and tule elk—and transformed it into a banal palatinate of industrial agriculture.”
― Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water
 

VikingsGuy

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Western States might do well to charge an immigration tax for new residents. Charge each new resident $1,000 per year for the first five years they become residents, then use that money to purchase wild habitat to be used for outdoor activities.
Pretty sure the pesky constitution would have something to say about this idea.
 
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beginnerhunter

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Since we were taking about human population growth and immigration:



Looks like we were headed for a population implosion without immigration. That's generally a good thing since population decreases cause economic malaise. Not sure what it means for western conservation but it's probably part of the equation.
 

neffa3

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It seems like water will be a limiting factor for continued population growth for much of the West. There’s only so much Colorado River to go around.
While some river's are nearing physical capacity we have more than enough "water" should be choose to use/manage it differently.

If we simply stopped growing corn in the desert we'd have plenty.
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