Apathy threatens Colorado conservation objective | AspenTimes.com

Apathy threatens Colorado conservation objective

Bob Berwyn
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

KEYSTONE, Colo. ” Preserving Colorado’s wildlife requires immediate action to address climate-change impacts, a growing thirst for water, burgeoning energy development and a nature deficit among young Colorado residents, a panel of biologists, land managers and policymakers concluded Wednesday.

“The nature of the threats are absolutely unprecedented in complexity, number and scale,” said Tom Remington, director of the state’s wildlife agency. “The status quo is not an option. I didn’t hear anyone arguing that things are fine.”

Wrapping up a three-day conservation summit in Keystone, experts said delays in implementing far-reaching conservation measures would be costly.

“If we fail to act now, we will almost certainly leave our children a Colorado diminished by our lack of determination,” summit participants concluded in a statement aimed at boosting public awareness about the serious threats Colorado wildlife.

Top-ranked leaders from state and federal agencies brainstormed with environmental advocates, ranchers and hunters to develop specific policy recommendations, including a mandate that schools incorporate standards related to environmental and outdoor conservation education.

Another immediate policy goal is require federal land managers to set measurable conservation targets and to hold them accountable for reaching those goals.

The larger set of goals was outlined a draft policy document released at the end of the meeting, addressing youth outreach, water quality and stream flows, land use and growth and federal public lands.

The list includes:

– Better regulation of the oil and gas industries;

– Strong roadless-area protection;

– Increased funding for conservation and watershed protection;

– Additional wilderness areas;

– Development of inter-agency watershed planning;

– Concentration of growth in existing urban and suburban areas; and

– Requiring cities and counties to adopt enforceable wildlife conservation codes.

A working group drawn from the conservation summit will continue to meet in coming months and find ways to implement some of the goals, potentially through agency rule-making or by legislative initiative.

“This summit is a watershed event,” said former Colorado Division of Wildlife director John Mumma. “For the first time in decades, natural-resource interests and organizations came together and endorsed a commitment to the future of Colorado’s wildlife.”

Remington advocated for better collaboration between various agencies and said there should be high standards for companies doing business in Colorado.

“If you’re a corporation doing business here, there should be an expectation that you will do it in an environmentally responsible way,” he said.

“Our wildlife is a public trust,” said David Getches, dean of the law school at the University of Colorado.

Getches, a well-known natural-resource scholar, said that policy changes aren’t enough to address the challenges. The biggest part of the challenge is making people care about wildife preservation, he said, characterizing that goal as “low-hanging fruit.”

People want to care, as evidenced by numerous surveys showing public support for conservation efforts. For the 50-year conservation push to succeed, leaders will have to rally citizens around some common themes.

“This land is our land,” Getches said. “These rivers are our rivers. This wildlife is our wildlife.”


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