Aspen The state government’s proposed merger of the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Colorado State Parks will create an agency that is sometimes like a fish out of water, Carbondale resident and state Wildlife Commission member Dorothea Farris said Monday.
Farris, an outspoken former Pitkin County commissioner, said the two agencies can share some activities and personnel, but they also must maintain some level of independence because their missions are so different.
For example, she said, wildlife officers specialize in hunting, fishing and habitat issues. They are more comfortable in the backcountry rather than in a developed park. They are trained in issues such as scaring a black bear away from a Dumpster and making sure a hunter is complying with regulations rather than addressing the needs of hordes chasing their recreation pursuits.
The merger was proposed by Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday as a way to boost efficiency and save the state money. State Sen. Gail Schwartz, a Snowmass Village Democrat, will be a co-sponsor to a bill expected to be introduced this week.
Farris said she is all for effective and efficient government, but she opposes the process used for this merger.
“It comes as a surprise, which somewhat bothers me,” she said. “No one bothered to talk to the agencies.”
Farris is on the 11-member board appointed by the government to set regulations and policies for hunting, fishing, watchable wildlife, nongame, and threatened and endangered species. She is in the middle of a four-year term.
The governor and legislature plan to approved a bill that will merge the agencies by July 1, then a team from the two agencies will develop a new organizational structure. A second bill that would make the necessary modifications to state statutes is anticipated to be introduced in January 2012.
Farris said she wants a system where the team studies possible areas of consolidation and areas that should be kept independent. Changes could be made but the agencies’ different roles could be preserved. She sent a letter stating her concerns to Schwartz and other state officials.
“The strength of the (DOW) with the leadership of Dr. Tom Remington is notable because of the commitment to both the value of wildlife to the state and the value of the habitat protections needed to support that wildlife,” Farris wrote.
Farris said she will likely get an opportunity to speak on the merger when the bill is debated by legislative committees but “by then it’s really too late,” she said. She wrote the letter to try to alter the process before the merger takes place.
Another Roaring Fork resident is also in the thick of the debate. Basalt Town Manager Bill Kane sits on the five-member state parks board. “My position is that we fully support the governor in what he’s trying to do,” Kane said.
State governments are looking at reduced revenues for the next few years, so they must finds ways to reduce spending, he said.