Commission thanks Ritter as friend to sportsmen

Although he served only one four-year term, former Gov. Bill Ritter proved “the best friend Colorado sportsmen have had for many, many years,” according to the Colorado Wildlife Commission.

During its meeting last week in Denver, the commission and Division of Wildlife Director Tom Remington effusively thanked Ritter for his efforts to protect fishing, hunting and wildlife habitat.

“First and foremost, thank you for realizing the value of wildlife to Colorado’s economy and for saying we’re not going to sacrifice the one to benefit the other — that the two work together,” said Commission Chairman Tim Glenn. “We appreciate the opportunity you’ve given us to serve on the commission and we appreciate – truly – the leadership you have shown throughout your term.”

Noting the key roles played by Ritter on such divisive topics as oil and gas development rules, roadless issues and the reauthorization of the Habitat Stamp, Remington said Ritter tackled the issues head-on without playing the political card.

“You took on a lot of really big issues with little regard for the political consequences,” said Remington. “You put wildlife at the table during energy development, which has allowed us to work with industry to protect 550 square miles of the West Slope, where energy development will go forward while wildlife values are protected.

“That is entirely due to your leadership.”

During his term, Ritter often spoke about the importance of Colorado’s wildlife to the state’s economy and its identity while he was at symposia and presentations in other states.

“I saw him at Jackson (Wyo.), Washington, D.C., and the Western Governor’s Association meeting, and he’s got wildlife on the brain,” said DOW spokesman Theo Stein. “I can’t remember having another governor (with concern for wildlife) so completely integrated in the thought process.”

However, it wasn’t all roses.

There was a considerable dustup over the roadless rules, and energy companies still ignore the obvious economic factors and instead blame Ritter for driving away development.

“I think the message here is that Gov. Ritter addressed these issues early in such as way as to get people thinking about possible solutions the industry would support or at least find acceptable,” Stein said.

Now, with drilling permits reaching the third-highest level ever, the biggest hurdle to development isn’t the state’s wildlife-protective rules but the low price for natural gas.

Ritter’s push to develop a roadless plan had several dividends, including proposing the protection of 400,000 acres not previously protected under the 2001 federal roadless bill.

The state also identified nearly 460,000 acres where roadless protection should not have been implemented. These lands revert to management under current Forest Service land-use plans.

“It leaves us with better map of areas that truly deserve roadless protection,” Stein said.


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