Update on DOW and state parks merger may be topic in workshop

The Colorado Wildlife Commission finds itself in Grand Junction this month, holding its regular summer workshop at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday at the DoubleTree Hotel.

Because it’s a workshop, not a full meeting, the agenda is pretty light.

Two items are of particular interest: an update on the pending merger between the divisions of wildlife and state parks, and another on mitigation plans for future flow depletions on the Fraser and Colorado rivers.

The merger still is rife with questions and no one yet is claiming to have all the answers.

Among the concerns: Managing two very dissimilar budgets, one for around $100 million a year (wildlife) and one for about half that (parks); combining the efforts of two agencies with different missions; and making sure those missions aren’t lost in the new agency.

The merger has the support of Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has made such clarifying statements as the merger will “put the state in a better place and lead to more efficient government” and “both agencies will find synergy in the merger.”

Gee, that makes us feel a whole lot better.

What about the people who really count, the citizens of Colorado?

I’m not saying the merger might not be a good thing for the hundreds of thousands of people who hunt and fish, watch peregrine falcons and black-footed ferrets, pursue sage grouse and mountain goats and black bears.

It also might benefit those people enjoying Colorado’s 42 state parks, where managing wildlife and natural resources often mean vastly different things.

Sometimes they are the same people, but sometimes they aren’t.

Another consideration is a proposal from state parks to sell energy leases within some of the parks.

The notion of working around energy development isn’t new to either agency: there is some drilling now in Barr Lake State Park northeast of Denver and some energy development on the Bosque del Oso State Wildlife Area near Trinidad.

But parks already suffers from a revenue shortage (read that to mean entry fees) and it’s unlikely visitation will grow if there are only oil rigs to see and waste-water pits to fish in.

In this age of transparency in government (Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, says the merger will make the DOW “more transparent”), there just hasn’t been a lot of substantive knowledge about how the merger will be handled.

With a July 1 deadline facing the merger, you can (should) expect to hear more of how the merger will proceed.

Grand Junction mayor Tom Kenyon, former deputy director of Colorado State Parks, is scheduled at 9:30 a.m. to give a historical perspective of the merger.

The two agencies initially merged in 1963 as the Colorado Division of Game, Fish and Parks (state parks was formed in 1959) and then split into two agencies in 1972.

Earlier proposals to re-merge the two agencies have been met with underwhelming enthusiasm.

A recent story in the Cortez Journal quoted a 2004 report from the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation’s staff in regard to an earlier merger proposal: “Vastly different missions, a lack of any efficiency savings, and the array of federal (funds) diversion issues negate any real operational benefits.

“A merger of the two divisions could repeat the problems of commingling funding sources that was experienced forty years ago,” the report said.

Summer? What summer? Just in case seeing all that snow in the mountains has you jonesing for a day on the slopes: At least four major ski resorts, including two in Colorado, still are open for the 2010-2011 ski season.

In addition to Crystal Mountain (Wash.) and Mammoth Mountain (Cal.), you can choose locally between Aspen Mountain and Arapahoe Basin.

A-Basin is open full-time through Sunday and will re-open June 10-12 and June 17-19. The resort still carries an 81-inch midway base and typical spring conditions.

Tickets are $59 but after today drop to $39.

Today quite possibly is the last day this season for Aspen Mountain, where the weather forecast says highs in the 60s.

Still, the mountain has a 54-inch base, 136 acres of skiable terrain open and skiing also on the usual spring conditions.

Tickets are $32 and the area is open until 4 p.m.


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