Climate and Wildlife in the Rockies

Climate and Wildlife in the Rockies

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“… climate change as the ‘ultimate wild card’…”

“We need to recommit to …wilderness”

” … called for the protection of wildlife-migration corridors.”

” … taking on big conservation challenges, including … land acquisitions..”
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Summit Daily News (Summit County, Colorado)
October 6, 2008

State leaders call for focus on wildlife
BY Bob Berwyn

KEYSTONE – Without major changes in policy, deer,
elk and other wild animals could soon be crowded
out of Colorado by sprawling growth, energy
development and climate change, according to a
panel of experts meeting Monday in Keystone for a
wildlife conservation summit.

“The number and severity of threats facing
wildlife is unprecedented in our history,” said
Colorado Division of Wildlife director Tom
Remington, listing oil- and-gas development,
population growth, coal-and- uranium mining as
key issues, and singling out climate change as
the “ultimate wild card” as a factor that cuts
across all areas of conservation.

The unprecedented conference features top-level
officials from state and federal agencies, as
well as representatives from conservation groups
and hunting and fishing interests.

The goal is to define the current status of
wildlife and habitat in Colorado, to project the
future under a “do-nothing” scenario, and to
develop a 50-year vision that preserves
natural-resource values.

“We need to reform our public land-management
agencies, focus on environmental security and
restore America’s lands,” said former U.S. Forest
Service Chief Dr. Mike Dombeck. “We need to
recommit to the concept of wilderness and build
public support. Otherwise we will not get the
funding we need Š We are suffering from public
apathy.”

After a round of opening speeches by top
officials, participants will form working groups
to devise specific policy recommendations for
wildlife preservation.

University of Colorado Law School Dean David
Getches called for a new era of public investment
in conservation.

Invoking conservation icons like Teddy Roosevelt
and Aldo Leopold, Getches said the current
economic climate presents an opportunity for
taking on big conservation challenges, including
potential land acquisitions during a time when
property values are relatively stagnant.

But he also cautioned that economic uncertainty could lead to changing values.
“Will conservation be seen as a luxury we can’t
afford in this milieu? We have enormous
challenges ahead. They’ve never been greater,”
Getches said. “If we’re going to have robust
wildlife and fish populations for our kids, it’s
about taking actions in our lifetime.”

Gov. Bill Ritter framed the conservation debate
through the lens of energy development.

Colorado is playing its part in moving the
country toward energy security by issuing
thousands of new permits for oil and gas wells,
but it has to be done in a way that maintains the
integrity of the state’s natural resources, he
said.

“It is our desire to work with the federal
government, the energy industry and the
development community,” Ritter said.

But even though collaboration is the preferred
approach, Ritter said his administration would be
a vigilant and stubborn steward of natural
resources.

Ritter addressed energy development squarely. He
said his recent initiative to reshape the oil and
gas commission is a critical step to ensure
responsible energy development, and he called for
the protection of wildlife-migration corridors.

Conservation goals don’t have to be at odds with
other societal values, said Luther Probst, of the
Sonoran Institute.

“We’ve got to learn to use our fiscal and
economic arguments to advocate for wildlife,”
Probst said.

For example, compact development, as compared
with exurban sprawl, can help rural counties save
money, requiring less in the way of
infrastructure development and reducing
operational costs, at the same time preserving
wildlife habitat.

Former Colorado Division of Wildlife director
John Mumma said federal land managers can, and
should, be advocates for wildlife.

“You can be an advocate without being an
adversary Š Not everyone who sues you or appeals
you is an enemy,” Mumma said, expressing
disappointment that National Forest supervisors
weren’t better represented at the conference.

Mumma said that, as federal land-management
budgets dwindle, wildlife is getting pushed
farther down the agenda.

“I see a gradual reduction in the effectiveness
and influence of our federal agencies. It’s
almost like they’re being strangled by design,”
Mumma said.

The conference continues today and Wednesday with
work group sessions. For more information on the
summit, go to www.conservationsummit.org.

Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at bberwyn@summidaily.com.

http://www.summitdaily.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081006/NEWS/810069947/1078&ParentProfile=1055&title=State%20leaders%20call%20for%20focus%20on%20wildlife&template=printart
Copyright 2008 All Rights Reserved

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