May 1 was the launch day for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s new pass for state wildlife areas, a program in which visitors can use a $46.48 annual pass or a $9 one-day pass.
CPW Assistant Director of Information and Education Lauren Truitt spoke about the early days of the pass and what’s next as part of the organization’s commission meeting Thursday. Although it’s too early to gauge how many passes have been sold, Truitt has seen signs of success.
“Most of our customers are in the system,” Truitt said. “They’re getting their state wildlife passes, and we’re off to the races.”
The CPW work group that conceived the new pass, which is an alternative to hunting and fishing licenses, is far from finished with its work on the project. Truitt told the CPW Commission that the group will meet as soon as possible, with emails being sent by Truitt on Thursday to begin the scheduling process.
In what Truitt calls “Phase 2” of the program, the group will determine which steps to take next to ensure that wildlife won’t be threatened by any potential surge in visitation to the state’s 357 wildlife areas.
“In this Phase 2 approach, we will be bringing back the work group that we convened last fall/winter,” Truitt said. “We will be looking at how we reduce recreation pressure on the wildlife on these properties. What that looks like is still being discussed. We’ll bring back the group of 15, the three commissioners that sat on that group, as well as the staff members that facilitate the conversation of, ‘What does the next iteration of this conversation look like?How do we reduce recreation pressure? How do we bring these properties back more in line with the original intent, which is wildlife habitat, protecting corridors, protecting their birding seasons, and very critical winter droughts?’ ”
Colorado’s standard hunting and fishing licenses are still available for those who prefer those activities. Either the state wildlife pass or a valid hunting or fishing license is required for anyone 16 or older to access wildlife areas.
Later in Thursday’s meeting, the commission discussed the state’s plan for wolf reintroduction after Colorado voters last fall approved Proposition 114, which calls for reintroducing wolves by the end of 2023.
A core team from Keystone Policy Center will facilitate the process of wolf reintroduction as well as the public’s role in it. Director of Natural Resources and Stakeholder Advisory Group Co-Lead Julie Shapiro, AI/AN Director and SAG Co-Lead Ernest House Jr., and Senior Project Manager Cally King Newman will lead Keystone’s collaborative efforts with CPW.
Keystone Policy Center has worked with CPW before, resulting in initiatives such as the Honey Bee Health Coalition, Field to Market, For the Love of Colorado, NOCO PLACES 2050 and Farmers for Monarchs, so the organization is prepared for the tasks ahead of it.
“The goal is the development of a plan that can work not only for wolves, but for all Coloradans across the state, especially at the local level on the Western Slope that will be most impacted by reintroduction,” CPW Assistant Director of Aquatic, Terrestrial and Natural Resources Reid DeWalt said. “Success requires navigating various tensions and considerations.”
DeWalt and the trio of Keystone members presented the commission with a comprehensive strategy on the coming years and how best to involve the public. Keystone has a three-phase approach to wolf introduction.
The first phase, which will last until this fall, is about public involvement with statewide hearings.
“Our vision is to have public involvement in the summer with an intensive series of meetings and focus groups throughout the state,” Shapiro said. “We proposed as many as 10 public meetings and 20 focus groups, going to different parts of the state with an emphasis on the Western Slope in terms of additional meetings.”
The second phase, which will last from fall into early 2023, is when public involvement will lead to any alternative plans for CPW before it drafts its official strategy. The third phase will begin with public comments on the draft plan before wolf reintroduction formally begins in late winter or early spring.
Keystone presented its dynamics for wolf reintroduction, which includes wildlife and human ecology, broad and equitable participation, focused leadership and collaboration, outcomes identified by votes, implementation approaches to be determined through collaboration, the national spotlight and dynamic policy landscapes, and unique considerations for Colorado in 2021. Shapiro also emphasized that these collaborative efforts must be deliberate, adaptive, expedient, efficient and, above all else, Colorado-focused.
With the Western Slope chosen for the region of wolves’ reintroduction, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser wrote a letter to the CPW Commission, urging it to create a special advisory panel exclusively comprised of Western Slope elected officials, giving the area’s residents more of a say in the process.
Keystone hopes its public sessions and focus groups this summer will negate the need for such a panel. The idea for the panel drew criticism from some of the meeting’s guest speakers, such as San Juan Citizens Alliance Wildlife Program Manager Gary Skiba.
“The commission has the authority and the responsibility to make decisions based on a broad range of public input, including that provided by county governments and the recommendations of the professional staff at CPW,” Skiba said. “Ceding any portion of that authority to another entity is inappropriate and opens the door to the erosion of the commission’s authority. Counties have multiple opportunities for input, both formally through the extensive process adopted by CPW and informally through existing contacts.”