“You see it on rivers just like the Taylor,” Mr. Caimi said. “Anyone comes along and builds a bunch of million-dollar homes, after which they determine they don’t wish to see rafters anymore.”
The group Backcountry Hunters and Anglers has vocally supported Mr. Hill. Together with habitat destruction, Mr. Tawney called privatization the highest threat to his members:
“The Fish and Wildlife Service did a survey, and considered one of the things they asked was, What’s the No. 1 issue that would prevent you from hunting and fishing? Why did you hang it up? The reply was not that their guns are going to be taken away. They’re apprehensive about access.”
The defendants have their very own supporters, including Colorado’s potent water lobby. Because it does throughout the West, scarcity makes water a precious commodity in Colorado, and the state’s many water users, from ski resorts to marijuana farmers, view potential disruptions with alarm.
“The foremost concern is that Colorado not open the door to the general public trust doctrine,” said Steve Leonhardt, a lawyer representing the Colorado Water Congress, a lobbying group. The general public trust doctrine, a legal principle arguing that some resources are too vital to not be stewarded for the general public, has been utilized in California and elsewhere to challenge long-settled water-use agreements.
“It’s one which the water community views as a threat,” Mr. Leonhardt said.
The American safari
Colorado’s most exclusive fishing enclave, the Wigwam Club, lies within the foothills west of Denver. Founded in 1921 by 60 of the state’s richest men, the club jealously guards eight exquisite acres along the South Platte River. On digital message boards, nonmembers share rumors about its clientele and stories about sneaking past guards to catch 27-inch rainbows.
Such clubs, which might cost $15,000 or more per yr to hitch, engender mixed feelings, and even their fiercest critics, and people of privatization generally, concede that without them the West’s wildlife could be gravely threatened.