Meeker game warden wins Wildlife Officer of the Year award
Craig — You might not expect state agents and officers to get teary-eyed when talking about their jobs, but that’s exactly what happened at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife commission meeting held in Craig Thursday and Friday.
The agency’s highest honor, the John D. Hart Wildlife Officer of the Year award, was given Thursday to Meeker District Wildlife Manager Bailey Franklin.
“Just being nominated is an absolute honor, but to win the John D. Hart is truly an accomplishment,” said CPW Director Bob Broscheid.
Among Franklin’s feats during his 14 years of service with CPW has been an investigation he conducted that ultimately convicted a Meeker outfitter in 2012 of baiting game for his out-of-state clients for more than 20 years. The outfitter was sentenced to more than three years in prison.
“Most impressively is the fact that he conducts his law enforcement activities in the same place he grew up,” Broscheid told the commission and audience. “This could be difficult, but Bailey treats everyone fairly whether friend of foe and uses law enforcement to change behavior and not to punish.”
Franklin is a third generation cattle rancher from Meeker, and lives there with his wife and three kids. He prefers the title of game warden over wildlife officer, which he defines as “the old-fashioned kind that gets the job done.”
“I feel very blessed to be a game warden. It’s been a dream forever,” Franklin said. “I can’t even do it justice to say how much it means to be nominated (for the award), and to actually be selected for it is overwhelming.”
Also nominated for the award were Troy Florian, Todd Marriott, Garett Watson and Steve Yamashita.
“The folks that work with our agency, they work for something bigger than themselves,” Broscheid said.
The agenda for the monthly commission meeting also included discussion of changing regulations and quotas for mountain lion hunting across the state.
The proposed predator management plan, which will not be decided upon by the board until November, would increase annual hunting quotas for mountain lions. The purpose is to reduce predation on struggling mule deer populations.
A proposed five-year study would track does and fawns in District 16, which stretches from Leadville to Canon City, to examine the effects of elevated mountain lion harvest on doe and fawn survival.
Commission Board Chair Robert Bray voiced his support for the study, calling it long overdue, however two individuals weighed in against the quota increase during a public comment period immediately following.
Colorado State Director for the Humane Society of the United States Aubyn Royall proffered that other studies have shown predator removal to have no effect on deer populations, and requested an additional hearing in Denver before deciding on the matter.
“There will be adequate opportunity for public comment on this,” replied Bray. “We’re extending it over two more months.”
As the United States honors the many individuals who have made the ultimate sacrifice this Memorial Day, multiple ceremonies in Moffat County will pay tribute as part of the holiday.