WRHPP: Theos elected chairman, Brennan to replace Grady

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RBC I As reported in May, retired local livestock producer Mike Grady stepped down from the White River Habitat Partnership Program (WRHPP) Committee after serving for 23 years, most all those years as the committee chair.

The local committee was formed in 1993 as one of what are now 19 similar committees across the state. The Division of Wildlife (now Colorado Parks and Wildlife [CPW]) started the cooperative, conflict resolution HPP in 1990.
In December 2015, Grady was awarded the Joe Gerrans Award at the annual Statewide HPP Conference. Gerrans was the original CPW officer credited with implementing the first years of HPP. According to Pat Tucker, the current state manager, the award “honors volunteer participants who exhibit exemplary service and dedication, not only to the program and to landowners, but to wildlife as well.
Last month, the committee chose Jim Brennan, a Piceance Creek livestock producer, to replace Grady. Brennan’s appointment to the White River committee was approved by the Parks and Wildlife Commission during its meeting in Meeker last week.
Brennan, Mark Etchart and Mike Lopez responded to the committee’s call for applicants. The three were interviewed by committee members and Area Wildlife Manager Bill deVergie in June.
Minutes of that June 6 meeting indicate that the interviewers felt the three were certainly “all worthy of the position.”
At its June 23 meeting, the committee also chose Angelo “Butch” Theos to be the chairman.
In addition to Theos and Brennan, both livestock producers, other members of the WRHPP committee and the interests they represent are: Bailey Franklin, CPW; Lenny Klinglesmith, livestock producers; Rich Parr, sportspersons; Mary Taylor, Bureau of Land Management; and Toni Toelle, U.S. Forest Service.
Like Grady, Theos has served on the committee since its inception. Samantha Sorenson of Glenwood Springs is the new CPW administrative assistant to the committee. She serves in the same capacity for several other HPP committees. In May, Sorenson took over for Ann Franklin, who had served the committee in that capacity for more than 10 years.
The HPP is largely funded by the dedication of 5 percent of big game license revenues allotted to each committee’s area. According to CPW representative and Meeker South District Wildlife Manager Bailey Franklin, the local committees are to ensure there is appropriate public involvement in identifying big game management issues and possible solutions in each area, and that there are long-term strategies in place that will resolve conflicts.
The WRHPP area is the White River drainage from the headwaters above Trappers Lake west to the Utah state line.
Franklin said the area is 27 percent privately owned, 54 percent BLM, 16 percent Forest Service, and 2 percent CPW land. The WRHPP committee’s Habitat Improvement Plan includes advocating, designing and helping to fund habitat manipulation projects, fencing projects, game damage prevention projects, information and education, research and monitoring, and conservation easements in cooperation with landowners, land managers, hunters and fishermen.
The committee’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget (projects the committee approved) amounted to just more than $317,000. Funded projects included Brooks mechanical treatment, Cannon ag land field improvement and aspen regeneration, Cherry Ranch ag land improvement (seeding), Etchart ag land improvement, Halandras water improvement, Out South (Pappas) reseeding and mowing, L Bar Slash stackyard improvements, Lime Kiln aerial spray and wildlife friendly fence improvement, LK Ranch sagebrush burn and reseeding project and stackyard improvement, McKee Ranch fencing, water and seeding, Meeker Dome ag land reclamation, Miller Creek Ranch habitat treatment, Oak Ridge (state land) fertilizer and aerial application, hydroaxe and seeding projects, R Lazy J sagebrush and mountain shrub treatment, Sheridan seeding, South Fork (Forest Service) noxious weed control, Sullivan and Lake ag land improvement, Two Buttes Ranch sagebrush treatment, Miller Creek (Forest Service) burn, and Vannoy Ranch sagebrush and dryland reclamation. Also included was nearly $50,000 for monitoring and evaluation of the White River landscape scale habitat treatment projects.
In April, area livestock operator Mike Lopez spoke to the committee about perceptions in the community about HPP spending. The concerns raised included project expenditures that deferred grazing to the point livestock use might be discontinued, projects that caused conflicts on neighboring properties, the appearance that HPP helps larger landowners that have commercial hunting programs as opposed to helping the public hunter, HPP funds used to help “bait” big game through “seeding projects” onto private lands with commercial hunting; and the need for better public information and relations. The committee resolved to give these concerns consideration and improve CPW’s outreach efforts.
Franklin encourages Rio Blanco County landowners with any kind of big-game-related conflicts to attend the committee’s monthly public meetings. The next meeting will be held on Aug. 16 at 7 p.m., at the Meeker CPW office, 73485 Hwy. 64. For more information, check the CPW website at www.wildlife.state.co.us/landwater and/or call Franklin at 970-942-5111.