Carbondale’s Farris yearns to remain voice for wildlife
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
The Roaring Fork Valley has two members on the influential board that sets hunting regulations and other key policy for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, but that could come to an end by July.
The Colorado Parks Department and Colorado Division of Wildlife were merged last year in a cost-cutting and government-efficiency move by Gov. John Hickenlooper. The merger of the two departments created an unwieldy 14-member board. There’s a proposal to reduce it to 11 members.
Currently, former Pitkin County commissioner and valley activist Dorothea Farris and Basalt Town Manager Bill Kane are on the merged board of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Kane was on the parks board before the merger. He said he would like to continue serving on the downsized board.
Farris also wants to remain on the board but is concerned she might be the odd woman out. She wants to remain on the board because, she said, she brings a unique perspective.
“I’m the only one that’s not a hunter, fisher or agricultural person,” Farris said.
She is, in the awkward verbiage of state government, a “non-consumptive user of wildlife.” In other words, she represents the constituency that enjoys wildlife to view, photograph and protect.
Farris has served six years on the wildlife commission, which oversaw the Division of Wildlife before the merger. She was appointed by former Gov. Roy Romer, a Democrat, but wasn’t reappointed by his successor, Republican Bill Owens. Farris was added to the board again by Owens’ successor, Democrat Bill Ritter. Her three-year term is set to expire this summer.
Farris said she “loved it” on the commission. She believes that wildlife is vitally tied to the high quality of life in Colorado. Its presence attracts many people who live in and visit the mountain regions of the state. She believes it’s important to have members of the board who have the prime goal of preserving habitat and not necessarily viewing wildlife as something to be harvested.
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission unanimously approved a final implementation plan for the merger earlier this month after eight months of study and work. The recommendation was to retain the “non-consumptive” wildlife person on the commission. It specifically advises appointing someone who is “a member of a nonprofit organization that supports and promotes conservation and enhancement of Colorado’s wildlife and its habitat, that recognizes and promotes primarily non-consumptive wildlife use, and that has expertise in wildlife issues, wildlife habitat or wildlife management.”
A bill introduced last week by Colo. Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, proposes terminating the current terms of commission members on June 30 and reforming an 11-member board effective July 1. It calls for nonconsumptive expertise on the board but doesn’t specifically carve out a position equal to the one Farris currently holds.
Sonnenberg’s proposal would reserve three positions for “sports persons” who hold hunting or fishing licenses, three members with agricultural interests and five positions for members “who can demonstrate a reasonable knowledge of wildlife issues and who regularly engage in outdoor recreation and utilize park resources.”
Farris said she finds the Sonnenberg bill “unacceptable.”
“It doesn’t reflect eight months of work” by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, she said. If the position she currently holds disappears after the board is merged, she said, she feels an important perspective will be lost.
Colo. Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, will be the bill’s co-sponsor in the state Senate. Farris said she believes Schwartz’s bill will reflect the need for a nonconsumptive wildlife person. Schwartz couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.
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