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RBC I The state habitat program the Herald Times reported on two weeks ago was initiated in 1990 through a partnership between the Division of Wildlife (now Colorado Parks and Wildlife) and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association (CCA).
The “dealmakers” were, primarily, then-DOW Director Perry Olson and Meeker’s Wiley Berthelson, an officer of the CCA who was assigned by the CCA board to take up the issue.
The big problems the organizations were trying to solve then were fence damage and forage (feed) conflicts that had arisen through the years between big game and livestock producers. In 2002, the Colorado General Assembly broadened that purpose to include helping the DOW to meet game management objectives.
After a hard winter in 1983-84, there were many landowner concerns about the size of deer and elk herds, their impacts on private property and how DOW was addressing those concerns.
State law held the DOW liable for fence and forage losses caused by deer and elk, but the process of proving damages and establishing appropriate compensation for the damages didn’t make either party happy.
With deteriorating landowner relations, increasing game damage claims and less tolerance for the presence of some big game herds, the Habitat Partnership Program (HPP) was created to address the problems in a non-traditional way—pursuing collaborative solutions.
Berthelson believes, looking back 25 years, that “Olson and the CCA did good work, that it was worthwhile. DOW and landowner relations,” he said, “have been a lot better, and there’s been an increased tolerance among landowners for big game.”
Berthelson also said he “is looking forward to the CPW monitoring and evaluation results that should tell whether some of the high-dollar habitat manipulation efforts like hydro axing, aerial seeding and fertilizing prove cost effective.”
Colorado big game hunters provide HPP funding through the allocation of 5 percent of their CPW license fees for the program. This amounted to HPP spending of almost $1.6 million in fiscal year 2015 (July 2014 – June 2015). These HPP dollars, however, are leveraged and matched with other agency, organization, private (typically landowner) funds, in-kind contributions and labor to get projects done.
Total HPP project costs in FY 2015 were just in excess of $8.6 million. This indicates a FY 2015 HPP (sportsmen’s) dollar to total cost leveraging ratio of 5.375.
The broad breakdown of HPP project costs (all sources) statewide for FY 2015 are reported as follows: administration $106,634, fencing $492,476, game damage $35,832, information and education $7,616, habitat manipulation $3,431,496, conservation easements and archeological clearances $4,443,395 and monitoring and research $102,657, totaling the $8.6 million.
The 19 local HPP committees across the state (all but one of which are west of Interstate 25) are now all coordinated out of the CPW northwest regional office in Grand Junction
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission has approval authority for appointments to local HPP committees and the statewide council.
The local, seven-member White River Habitat Partnership Program committee is now chaired by Meeker area lamb and wool producer, Angelo “Butch” Theos, who was elected to that position last month after having served on the committee since its inception in 1993.
It was previously reported that the White River committee had approved expenditures of just over $317,000 on projects for the fiscal year that ended June 30.
Based on 5 percent of area big game license sale revenues, the White River Committee has an initial budget allotment of $200,000 this year. At its last full meeting in June, the committee approved $92,000 in projects for this next year. They include: continued monitoring and evaluation of landscape scale treatments, $47,600; two carry-over projects from last year—Halandras Ranch water development, $4,000, and Grady Ranch (Lime Kiln) fence, $1,178; Phase II of CPW’s Piceance Basin Mule Deer project, $11,000; K/K Ranch Water Development, $11,082; and landscape scale weed treatment, $16,800.
The local committee is scheduled to meet again on Aug. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Meeker CPW Office, 73485 Hwy. 64. Anyone wanting more information can check the CPW Habitat Partnership website at www.wildlife.state.co.us/landwater and/or call Meeker South District Wildlife Manager Bailey Franklin, at 970-942-5111.