BLM Colorado | WRFO Recreation | Hunting Access Frequently Asked Questions
Print Page

Q. What is public land?  Federal Land :  For purposes of this fact sheet public land is defined as: Any land surface which is under the jurisdiction of (managed by) one of the following agencies: U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management or U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

These lands are generally open to public recreational use, including hunting and fishing, in accordance with regulations prescribed by Federal and State laws.

Colorado is a mixture of public, state, and private land, each with different laws and regulations. Know where you are at all times. Ask before entering private land. Observe signs and posted areas. Check .. is your outfitter licensed and registered? Avoid travel that will cause damage to the land. Don't litter. Leave all gates the way you found them. In other words .. use common sense and be a good neighbor. Respect both public and private land.

State Trust Land:  State of Colorado Trust lands are not "public" lands in the same sense as the federal lands managed by the Federal land management agencies. Colorado's state lands are "trust lands" granted to Colorado on its admission to the Union. These lands are managed to produce income for the support of the state's schools and public institutions. Agricultural lessees control access to state land parcels, unless the parcel has been opened for public access under the Multiple-Use Policy between the Colorado State Land Board and the Division of Wildlife. Users should ascertain if parcels are open for public access on a site-specific basis.
Q. What are the right of the public to cross private lands to access public land?
The public may cross private lands to access public lands only when a public road (typically a County road) or right-of-way (easement) for public access exists across the private lands. In the absence of such a right-of-way, the public has no right to cross private lands without first obtaining permission from the landowner. The landowner is under no obligation to grant such permission.
Q. What does the law say with regard to corner crossing?
There is no specific state or federal law granting corner crossings. Corner crossings are not considered legal public access.
Q. What are the rights and privileges of lessees and permittees on federal lands?
Federal grazing lease or permit privileges are only for grazing lessees or permittees and they can only control access across their private property. He/she has no authority to control access on, or use of, public land, nor can he/she restrict travel over a public road or a road with an easement that allows public travel. Lessees and permittees are not allowed to charge the public for the privilege of using public lands.

A private landowner holding a grazing lease or permit with the BLM does not have to allow or provide access across his/her private property as a condition of the lease or permit.

A federal lease or permit holder may not exclude the public from their lease or permit area. However, they do have the right to exclude the public from entering any buildings or other improvements they may have been authorized to construct on the area under permit. Additionally, some areas may be closed to public entry by order of the Federal land management agency. An example of this is a mining operation that has been closed for reasons of public safety.
Q. Do rivers and streams offer legal access to public lands?
Colorado state law considers the banks and bottom of a river to be private if adjacent land surface is private. Visitors should first obtain landowner permission to stop on private property. Any unauthorized contact with private property may be considered trespassing.
Q. Can a wounded animal be pursued onto private land?
Only with the permission of the private landowner.
Q. What are the State of Colorado's trespass laws?
According to Colorado State Law, landowner permission is required prior to entering or crossing private property, except while traveling on public roadways. Two sections of the Colorado Revised Statutes (CRS) apply to trespassing:
1) CRS 18-4-504 relates to "Third Degree Trespass", which constitutes either a petty offense, misdemeanor, or felony depending upon the classification of the property involved, and the circumstances of the trespass. This statute requires a Court Appearance. Upon conviction, fines can range from $50 to $750 and can include a sentence in county jail. Private property does not necessarily have to be posted in order for trespass laws to be enforced.
2) CRS 33-6-116  relates to trespass while engaged in the act of hunting. The penalty for violating this statue is a fine of $137 and possible jail time. In addition, 20 hunting license "Points" are assessed (when 20 or more "Points" are accumulated during a 5 year period, the state Wildlife Commission may suspend your hunting and fishing privileges for up to 5 years). Some other pertinent State Laws:
CRS 33-6-125  forbids loaded firearms in motor vehicles. Penalty is $68 fine plus 15 points.
CRS 33-6-123  forbids hunting while under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances. Penalty is a Court Summons and 20 points.
CRS 33-6-119 (2) regards waste of edible portions of wildlife. For big game, the penalty is a $411 fine and 15 points.
CRS 33-6-126 forbids shooting from, or releasing an arrow from or across a public road. Fine is $68 and 5 points.
Q. What recourses are available if access problems arise?
Federal Agencies: Report the incident immediately to the nearest Colorado Division of Wildlife office, or BLM field office, with specifics of the incident; particularly the exact location where the incident occurred. An Access Problem Identification Form has been developed for use in reporting incidents of this nature on Federal lands. A copy of this form is available at field offices identified in this fact sheet.
State Agencies: The State Land Office will investigate state land access related problems and complaints which involve actions that are either illegal or contrary to State Land Board regulations and lease terms. If the problem/complaint can be documented and verified, the parties involved will be contacted and requested to immediately correct the situation. Non-compliance with lease terms and related Board regulations is grounds for lease cancellation. Non-compliance with the Board's public rules (such as off-highway vehicle use), vandalism, or property damage on state lands are grounds for arrest by any duly authorized peace officer and prosecution under pertinent Colorado statutes.
Q. What is a public road?
For purposes of this fact sheet, a public road is any road which is under the jurisdiction of the Colorado Department of Transportation, county or municipal government. These roads are open to public travel, or closed by order of the agency having jurisdiction. Roads may be closed or use restricted to fulfill management objectives such as protecting public health and safety, or preserving resources or wildlife.
Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW):  The majority of roads on lands owned by the Colorado Division of Wildlife are open for public use. Travel is restricted to established roads and some roads may be regulated for resource protection. Roads under the jurisdiction of the public land management agencies (as defined above) are open to public travel while the road is on public lands. Once the road crosses into private property, there is no longer public access along that road.  
Q. How can public roads be identified and located?
State and some country roads are shown on the official Colorado State Highway Map. Public roads under the jurisdiction of land management agencies are more difficult to identify. They can normally be identified by signing on the ground, but may not be readily identifiable from maps published by the managing agency. Many maps published by land management agencies and topographic maps published by the U.S. Geological Survey show all roads that physically exist. These maps may not differentiate between private and public roads. Inquiry at the local office of the managing agency is suggested in order to avoid being denied access on a private road.

As mentioned, many maps show all existing roads, whether public or private. The owners of many private roads (that is, those not under the jurisdiction of a government agency) may or may not allow access to the public lands. Unless a public agency acquires a right-of-way for the road across private land, the landowner is completely within his/her right to close the road at any time, to be selective of who is allowed to use the road, or to charge a fee for use of the road.
Q. What are travel management policies and practices of public agencies?
Federal Lands:  The majority of BLM and Forest Service roads open to the public are open to vehicular use. However, roads could be open to the public for horseback or foot travel only.
The BLM or the Forest Service may regulate the use of all roads and lands under its jurisdiction in order to accomplish specific land management objectives, protect resources, or for public safety. This may include restricting vehicle travel to designated travelways, either during specific periods of time, or yearlong. It may also include closing areas to specific modes of travel or specific types of vehicles. All such restrictions are typically posted on the ground. Information and maps showing restrictions are available at Forest Service and BLM offices. Anytime a BLM road is closed or restrictions are placed on the road, the closure or restriction is announced to local news media. The public can find out which BLM roads are open to the public by contacting the nearest BLM office.

Last updated: 03-20-2014