Ned Miller, former Sportsman Information Specialist at the Moffat County Visitor Center, talks with a customer Tuesday afternoon at his desk. Miller officially retired from the position but has volunteered to help at the visitor center until the Chamber of Commerce selects his replacement.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Ned Miller, former Sportsman Information Specialist at the Moffat County Visitor Center, talks with a customer Tuesday afternoon at his desk. Miller officially retired from the position but has volunteered to help at the visitor center until the Chamber of Commerce selects his replacement.

DOW won't give funds

Cuts prevent regional division from giving more to chamber

The Craig Chamber of Commerce asked the Colorado Division of Wildlife for an additional $10,000 a year to fund the Chamber's sportsman's information specialist position.

DOW's response: There's no more money to give.

"That's my problem - where do I get the money?" said Ron Velarde, DOW Northwest Regional manager during a meeting between the Chamber and wildlife division employees Tuesday.

Recent budget cuts prevent DOW's regional division from providing the additional funds, he said.

The sportsman's position provides information about hunting regulations, licensure and local accommodations.

Increased operating expenses and a greater demand for the position's services prompted the Chamber to seek more funding, Chamber Executive Director Christina Currie said.

The DOW provides $5,000 annually to fund the position. The Bureau of Land Management also supplies $5,000, and other agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado State Parks, also contribute.

But, neither these funding sources nor the Chamber's annual income covers the cost of maintaining a sportsman's information specialist full time for six months, according to a Chamber document. Initially, the information specialist position cost $18,523 a year. To conserve funds, the Chamber cut the position to part-time the entire year.

The position "is really under-funded for what we need it to do, to do it accurately," Currie said.

The Chamber applied for additional funding from the department in January 2006.

"In September 2006, (the request) was denied because the agency had invested additional funding in field staff and because the DOW has service centers in Meeker and Steamboat Springs," the Chamber document stated.

This week, Chamber members tried again, asking the regional DOW division to increase the annual amount to $15,000 to reinstate the position to full time.

But, the state Legislature has reduced the DOW's budget by almost 25 percent in recent years, Velarde said, making it unlikely that the regional office will be able to contribute more to the Chamber.

The regional director didn't completely close the door on additional funding.

Velarde said he would request that the state DOW consider providing more money to the Chamber. The funding wouldn't be available until July, he said.

He said he thought the sportsman's information specialist, housed in the Moffat County Visitor Center, provided a unique service that other visitors centers in the state did not, such as the hunting information.

If the DOW provides more funding for the position, its employees would like to see changes in the way the Chamber communicates with the agency.

That the Chamber was having difficulty funding for the position should not have been new information to the DOW, Currie said after the meeting, adding that she had submitted the request for additional funding in 2006.

"It was not, to my knowledge, an official request," said Randy Hampton, DOW public information officer.

When the request was denied, she said the Moffat County Commission appealed to DOW director Tom Remington, Department of Natural Resources director Harris Sherman and State Representative Al White.

Velarde also suggested the Chamber request other agencies, including the BLM, to help fund the information position.

"There (are) other entities that have equal say in what's going on here," he said.

The Chamber executive director begged to differ.

"It has nothing to do with who has the most money," Currie said. "It's who benefits most from the service."

For her and Chamber board members, the DOW is that agency.

About half of all inquiries handled by the information specialist this year dealt specifically with hunting and game issues, including licensure issues that would otherwise fall to the DOW, Currie said.

"I'm disappointed that the funding isn't available, but I understand that their funding is tight," she said. "The assistance they offered is something we'll definitely take advantage of."

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