Outfitters on commission to decide license rules
In what appears to be the inmates running the jail, a pair of Colorado Parks and Wildlife commissioners, both of whom are registered big-game hunting outfitters, are set to play major roles in deciding how the state’s wildlife agency doles out big-game licenses.
More exactly, the decision will determine how many of the most-coveted of those hunting licenses will be taken from the allotment set aside for resident hunters and be given to nonresident hunters, who make up the great majority of the hunters who employ outfitters.
The two commissioners, Robert Bray of Nucla and Jean Horne of Meeker, comprise 40 percent of a five-member subcommittee established during the August parks and wildlife commission meeting in Fort Collins.
The subcommittee will have a public meeting at 5 p.m. Sept. 7, after the first day of the commission’s regularly scheduled meeting at the Ramada Glenwood in Glenwood Springs.
The subcommittee was formed last month after an attorney representing the Colorado Outfitters Association suggested the current method of allocating licenses between resident and nonresident hunters “could be subject to challenge” under the Colorado and U.S. Constitutions.
Other members of the subcommittee include Gaspar Perricone, Denver (representing sportspersons on the CPW commission); Michelle Zimmerman, Breckenridge (nonprofit interests); and Alexander Zipp, Pueblo (sportspersons). Bray, who previously served on the wildlife commission from 2009-2009, represents agricultural interests while Horne is an outfitter representative.
Both Bray and Horne belong to the Colorado Outfitters Association, whose members stand to benefit should license allocations to nonresident hunters be increased.
Their presence on the subcommittee at best is a conflict of interest. It’s hard to imagine either Bray or Horne, no matter how honorable their intentions, would have a unbiased view of whether nonresident hunters should get more of the coveted big-game limited license if doing so means putting more money in the outfitters’ pockets.
It was apparent during the August commission meeting, whose sessions can be heard at the Parks and Wildlife website, cwp.state.co.us, that several key members of the commission have little or no background of how the allocation system works or how the current system came into being.
Some of that has to do with the natural progression of citizen committees but it also has to do with at least four key commission members coming from the parks side of the agency, where wildlife issues rarely are discussed.
Several times, commission chair Bill Kane mentioned his and other members’ lack of background knowledge, saying “I probably represent a fair numbers of members on the committee” lacking familiarity with the licensing system.
He purposefully asked for an outfitter to be on the subcommittee, but having two outfitters make up 40 percent of the subcommittee is overloading the “wildlife as a commodity” side.
State Terrestrial Wildlife Programs supervisor John Broderick offered the services of his staff to meet with the commission in explaining the allocation system but Kane showed little interest, preferring instead to seek the counsel of Bray, a longtime outfitter who two years ago was accused of interfering with a hunter.
He told this reporter that the accusation, involving a father and son from California hunting on public land adjacent to Bray’s land, “was settled to the satisfaction of all parties involved.”
The subcommittee is made of volunteers and it would make sense for both Bray, who sat on the Landowner Working Group during the 2005 big-game license hearings, and Horne to un-volunteer to clear away any suspicions of trying to fix the system to the benefit of nonresidents.