Wildlife advocates should be heeded | PostIndependent.com

Wildlife advocates should be heeded

State Department of Natural Resources director Greg Walcher may be doing a good job of muzzling Division of Wildlife officials, but he’s having a harder time with DOW retirees.

Fifty-eight of them wrote Gov. Bill Owens last week, according to the Denver Post. They expressed concern over the political pressures being placed on the DOW and over whether a proposal to bring the DOW and other Natural Resources agencies under one roof would only exacerbate the problem.

Previously, a former DOW director, John Mumma, objected to Walcher’s strong support for the off-road industry in the White River National Forest travel management planning process. DOW biologists had called for closure of unpermitted roads, but their recommendation was never forwarded to the U.S. Forest Service.

This comes on top of other concerns, including Walcher’s heavy editing of DOW comments related to the WRNF’s long-range forest plan.

Walcher is arrogantly dismissive of the views of former DOW employees, as he showed in explaining why he rebuffed an offer from them to participate in the Natural Resources’ reorganization study.

“I don’t know why former employees think they should be consulted. They don’t work there anymore,” he told the Denver Post.

Perhaps not, but they are ardent advocates for wildlife. So are current DOW employees, but they are having increasing difficulty speaking up for the state’s wildlife.

Now would be a good time for DOW director Russ George to do so. His appointment to the job was itself criticized as being political, but the former state lawmaker is a skilled consensus-builder whose employees particularly need his leadership during this time of crisis.

Consolidating the offices of DOW and other Natural Resources agencies may be a cost-saving move. But we share the fear that it’s yet one more way of reducing the independence of the state’s wildlife agency, and perhaps also aimed at siphoning away some of the hunting and fishing fees and federal money that now go to fund the DOW.

These funds support a resource that forms the basis of a $2.5 billion Colorado industry of hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing. On the Western Slope especially, what threatens our wildlife should concern us all.

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