Guest opinion: Leaders must protect our wildlife heritage
As a 77-year-old native of Glenwood Springs and one who has never seen a mountain lion in the wild, I was disgusted by the attempt of Colorado Parks and Wildlife to scapegoat the predators for the loss of our heritage game animals.
The predators and prey animals have engaged in this dance before man came to North America. The problem as explained by cartoonist Walt Kelly’s character Pogo, is as Pogo says, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
As a boy of 14 years old in 1953 in Glenwood Springs, the hunting season for both deer and elk was from Oct. 15-31. Fishing season started May 15 and closed Sept. 30. This with a daily limit of 20 trout.
Contrast that with no end to fishing season now and a hunting season that starts Aug. 15 and extends through Jan. 15. Both of these long seasons carry through the breeding seasons of both fish and game animals when they are most vulnerable to be taken.
As we encourage people to come and settle in Colorado, government also grows. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is supported to a great extent through license fees. As Coloradans do not like to pay taxes, revenues can be increased by raising fees, which is not popular, to extending the seasons to provide the needed revenues.
The main driver of our loss of wildlife is the need to increase revenue and the misconception that hunters and fishermen should support the wellbeing of our heritage fish and game animals. People like myself who fish occasionally and no longer hunt are delighted to see our heritage animals in the wild, and I am secure that they, as well as I, are willing to be taxed so we can continue to enjoy our wildlife.
The protection of the animals and their habitats is an important part of our lives in Colorado. Our leaders must address this loss and do their job to ensure the continued existence of our wildlife.
There is plenty of blame to go around here. The main driver of our own wildlife problem is our short-term attitude that more is always better. I suspect that we have encouraged more people to come and settle in Colorado than we now have large game animals. We are driving this state into unsustainability, if we are not there now. We are becoming the Easter Island of the Rockies. Smaller problems are the vast sporting good stores that sell hunting and fishing equipment and their need to expand their profits.
The fences along our major highways block access to water and ancient migratory paths to winter feeding areas. Local elected officials join and support the will of extractive industries to block the federal and state governments from protecting the heritage animals on our public lands that they are charged to protect. Extra revenues from extractive industries makes governing easy, a sort of Santa Claus government bringing favors to participating communities. The increased volume of nitrated sewage in our streams and rivers covers the rocks with moss and algae so native insects and food sources for our fish no longer exists or are severely limited.
On a brighter note, I am pleased large landowners in the Roaring Fork Valley have allowed the deer and elk to winter in their fields as well as golf courses and rural development. Also the public watches over these animals to protect them from poaching.
Our attitude that more is always better is the fatal flaw. It is not possible in the long run. E.F. Schumacher said many years ago, “Uncontrolled growth is the definition of cancer.” Quality is always superior to quantity. Contact our elected officials and redirect efforts to preserve our common wildlife heritage.
Gregory Durrett lives in Glenwood Springs.
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