Wildlife Commission discusses successful projects

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The preservation and protection of wilderness, wildlife and habitat is one of the many balancing acts that administrators and elected officials are challenged with in Colorado.

One organization working toward preservation and protection is the Colorado Wildlife Commission. The Commission is made up of 14 members representing different districts and organizations throughout the state.

A workshop series for the Commission, which highlighted several conservation and outdoor issues, was held Thursday in Craig. Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos is a member of the Wildlife Commission.

The primary topic discussed was the Wetlands Initiative, a project of the Colorado Department of Natural Resource's Division of Wildlife Wetlands Program.

The Wetlands Program was initiated in 1996, to act as an umbrella program for any endeavor that had to do with wetlands, according to Wetlands Program coordinator Alex Chapel.

"Our mission is to contribute to Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) issues that address the needs of wetland-dependent species."

There are three areas which qualify as wetlands in Moffat County.

The Initiative is a project done in partnership with entities such as Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy Partners for Fish and Wildlife, Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation, Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and private landowners.

Other projects under the the Wetlands Program include the Colorado Duck Stamp, Wetland Partnerships, North American Waterfowl Management Plan-Playa Lakes and Intermountain West Joint Venture for Colorado, Wetland Projects database, and Wetlands Projects monitoring and evaluation.

"The accomplishments of these programs include the successes of the Colorado Duck Stamp, which has helped create increased duck populations, and increased duck habitat on state lands," he said. "This leads to more ducks on public land during the hunting season, and increased nesting areas to help sustain and improve population numbers."

An evaluation of the Wetlands Projects is the first significant effort to gauge what the projects have done as well as their effectiveness. According to Chapel, that evaluation should be complete in a few years.

"We believe our accomplishments and successes are due to three major components," Chapel said. "The first is that we've partnered with a lot of folks in Colorado, while further integrating our departments. This streamlines our operations, and makes our work with many outside partners more effective and successful.

"The second is the fact the Initiative programs are totally voluntary and non-regulatory. Agricultural people, ranchers, private owners consider working with us, assisting us with our projects because we work under a non-regulatory, incentive based process.

"The third is that we are well funded, and well supported. This Wildlife Commission has always voiced strong support, and that positive support filters through our divisions and other agencies. Your support weighs a lot in our favor."

The Wildlife Commission also:

Heard a report on the Habitat Partnership Program. Chapter 8 and 9 regulations were reviewed for their impact and guidance with issues such as competing recreation uses on public lands, commercial versus private users and recreation use versus habitat/wildlife conservation.

Discussed the upcoming licensing agent commission increase. The increase is a temporary source of revenue to help offset the costs of implementing the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Update System (CORUS). The Commission considered some language of the proposal and the idea of allowing the Commission increase to be flexible and/or capped.

Heard a report on the Softshell Turtle issue.

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