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Hunters get standing

  Hunters in Colorado recently won a legal victory in a dispute over expanding a state prison. The hunters and their environmental allies challenged Colorado's use of state park land in Rifle for the prison, charging that money collected from fishermen and hunters through taxes on guns and other equipment had purchased the land. The federal Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937 requires that the land remain dedicated to wildlife, the plaintiffs said.

In a preliminary hearing, Federal District Court Judge Lewis Babcock, sitting in Denver, ruled that the plaintiffs had the right to bring the case against state wildlife and prison officials, as well as against Colorado Gov. Roy Romer.

If the judge's opinion sets a precedent, it would let citizens across the country challenge how Pittman-Robertson and state license funds are used, says Tom Huerkamp, spokesman for the Sportsmen's Wildlife Defense Fund in Delta, Colo., one of the plaintiffs. Huerkamp is also on the board of High Country News.

Huerkamp says abuse of wildlife funds is widespread. "We've heard from people all over the country. If the tax money we hunters fork over every year were used properly, there's more than enough to buy all the habitat we need."

The lawsuit is numbered Civil Case No. 96-B-1637, U.S. District Court, District of Colorado.

* Ed Marston