SOUTHWEST COLORADO – The State of Colorado and the Ute Mountain Ute tribe signed an agreement on Jan. 11 guaranteeing native hunting rights across a broad swath of southwest Colorado.
Governor John Hickenlooper joined Gary Hayes, Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Chairman, Rick Cables, Director, Division of Parks and Wildlife, and John Singletary, Chair of the Parks and Wildlife Commission, to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) concerning wildlife management and enforcement in a region known as the Brunot Area.
“We are proud to sign this agreement with the Ute Mountain Ute tribe,” Hickenlooper said. “The state and the tribe have worked together to preserve tribal hunting, fishing and gathering rights. Today’s agreement helps to preserve Colorado’s heritage and customs of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe.”
In 1874, Congress approved an agreement between the United States and certain Ute Indians in Colorado, known as the “Brunot Agreement.” Under the agreement, the Utes ceded land to the United States but reserved a right to hunt on those lands for “so long as the game lasts and the Indians are at peace with the white people.”
The Brunot Agreement covers land now known as the Brunot Area, which extends, roughly, from U.S. Highway 160 through Durango and Cortez on the south to the southern boundaries of Montrose and Gunnison counties on the north, and from the middle of Mineral County near Creede on the east to just west of Cortez on the west.
“The native people of Colorado have a special relationship and long history with wildlife, and we’re glad to have the opportunity to work with them into the future,” Parks and Wildlife’s Cables said. “This agreement protects the Ute Mountain Ute’s sovereign rights to hunt and fish these lands while it enhances the communication and coordination between our wildlife managers and tribal wildlife managers.”
This MOU mirrors a similar agreement reached between Governor Bill Ritter and the Southern Ute Tribe in 2008.
The tribe and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission worked together to develop an MOU in recognition of the parties’ shared responsibility for the well being and perpetuation of the wildlife resources and habitat of the area, said the parties’ release.
The parties have agreed in the MOU to maintain a strong and cooperative dialog regarding wildlife, especially related to the harvest of game species and management within the Brunot Area. The tribe and the state also agreed to recognize and respect the jurisdiction of each other and to work cooperatively in the conduct of law enforcement operations of mutual interest.
The tribe has managed and operated a professional wildlife management program on its reservation in southwest Colorado for a number of years, which includes rules for hunting and fishing by tribal members within the Brunot Area in a manner consistent with its existing practices. These rules include seasons for tribal member hunting, methods of take, species to be harvested and other regulations. The MOU includes agreement regarding the types of species to be taken and a process by which allocation of rare game species such as moose, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats will be equitably allocated between tribal hunters and hunters licensed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Importantly, the Brunot Agreement does not give members of the tribe any rights to hunt on private land in the Brunot Area without first obtaining landowner permission, and Brunot hunting rights are not transferable to other hunters who do not belong to Ute Mountain or Southern Ute tribes.