Input sought on wildlife merger

RBC I The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission has discussed a range of issues related to the merger of the state’s former parks and wildlife agencies to create the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife. The merger became effective July 1.
Kim Burgess, chief operating officer of the Department of Natural Resources, explained that DNR is currently taking public comments on the development of a unified agency mission, the composition of the permanent parks and wildlife commission, achieving full consolidation of the two divisions and other suggestions for making the new agency more efficient and effective.
“The legislature gave us specific subjects to make recommendations on but that doesn’t preclude the public giving us their thoughts on other issues as well,” said Tim Glenn, who was elected chair of the new body. “If it’s something that will help this agency do its job better, we’d like to hear about it.”
The deadline for the initial round of comments is July 29.
The Hickenlooper administration won broad bipartisan support in the General Assembly for its proposal to merge Colorado State Parks and the Division of Wildlife during the 2011 legislative session as the spearhead of an effort to streamline state government. Mike King, the director of the Department of Natural Resources, said one of the benefits of the merger is the opportunity to build a broader and more robust constituency for natural resources in Colorado.
“As director of DNR, one thing I worry about is 30 years from now citizens making decisions on natural resources without understanding things like where water comes from or where energy comes from,” King said. “That’s a huge risk. The merger … will help us keep this from happening by using outdoor recreation as a tool to make those connections clear in peoples’ minds.”
In the coming months, King, Rick Cables, the new director of Parks and Wildlife, and the parks and wildlife commission will explore alternatives to complete the merger. Already, a transition team of employees and 10 employee working groups are evaluating agency functions from field operations to capital development and real estate to customer service in order to identify options for consolidation and improvement.
Burgess said that major decisions about the merger will move through a three-step process. During the next few weeks, issues that will need to be resolved will be developed through public and employee input. At the second, or “draft” step, alternatives will be presented for review and refinement. A final recommendation will then be presented to the board for consideration and possible adoption.
Timelines for decisions, as well as the request for public input, are posted on the web at: dnr.state.co.us/DPW/Pages/PublicInput.aspx
During the commission’s afternoon session, board members discussed a number of issues related to the merger, such as the composition of their membership, the public input process and meeting protocols.
In a show of unity, board members unanimously decided to approve items by a simple majority, rather than by the dual majority of the former Parks Board and Wildlife Commission members called for in statute. The body also voted to call itself a “commission,” rather than “board,” as was specified in the legislation.
As well as electing Glenn as chair, members elected Gary Butterworth of Colorado Springs as vice-chair and Mark Smith of Center as secretary.
The commission approved several actions regarding season regulations for small game, including two prairie game bird species. Commissioners approved eliminating the additional permit required to hunt greater prairie-chicken, expanded the number of game management units open to prairie-chickens on the eastern plains and extended the season to coincide with the end of quail season.
The commission also approved opening six units in northwestern Colorado to greater sage-grouse hunting because sage-grouse lek counts have reached levels indicating populations can sustain limited hunting harvest. Commissioners voted to close one unit in far northwestern Colorado because lek counts fell below that level.
In other action, commissioners approved improving waterfowl hunting opportunity at James M. Robb Colorado River State Park and Highline Lake State Park and increasing the bag limit on dark geese in the Pacific Flyway portion of Colorado. They approved migratory game bird hunting seasons for 2011-2012, but deferred until August final action on duck hunting regulations in the Central Flyway portion of Colorado pending a Federal decision on allowable zones and splits options.
The commission asked staff to work with bowfishing proponents who have asked that archery be allowed as a manner of take for kokanee salmon during the snagging season in areas open for snagging.
In other action, commissioners unanimously upheld a 15-year suspension of hunting and fishing privileges for a Parker outfitter who pleaded guilty in 2010 to three counts of illegal possession of wildlife in Lincoln County Court. One of the charges to which Thomas Tietz pleaded guilty carried a $10,000 Samson surcharge for the killing of a trophy white-tail. Tietz also pleaded guilty to a separate count alleging he was responsible for the illegal take of three or more deer. Tietz did not appear for the hearing.
Thursday’s meeting was held at the Hunter Education Building, located at the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife’s campus at 6060 North Broadway.
The Parks and Wildlife Commission will meet monthly and travel to communities around the state to facilitate public participation in its processes. The commission was formed July 1 by combining the Colorado State Parks Board with the Colorado Wildlife Commission. During the remainder of 2011, the commission has scheduled meetings in Alamosa in August, Colorado Springs in September, Steamboat Springs in October, Burlington in November and Fort Collins in December.
Members also voted to continue the Wildlife Commission’s practice of broadcasting proceedings through a link on the Division of Wildlife website. This opportunity is provided to keep constituents better informed about the development of regulations by the Commission and how they are working with parks and wildlife staff to manage parks, wildlife and outdoor recreation programs administered by the agency.
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission is a 14-member board appointed by the governor that sets policies and regulations for the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife. More information about the Parks and Wildlife Commission may be found by clicking on the Board or Commission links at wildlife.state.co.us or at parks.state.co.us.
Public input on the merger may be submitted by input via email to: DPWPublic.Input@state.co.us. Comments may also be mailed to:
Colorado Department of Natural Resources, ATTN: Transition Team,
1313 Sherman St., Room 718, Denver, Colo., 80203.
For more information about Division of Wildlife go to: http://wildlife.state.co.us.