Merger Update

May 12, 2011

May 12 article Ft. Collins Coloradoan - DOW- Parks Merger Concerns Sportsmen

Link:http://www.coloradoan.com/article/20110512/NEWS01/105120358/DOW-Colorado-State-Parks-merger-concerns-sportsmen?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

May 2 Update:  As stated under News, the bill to merge the Division of Wildlife and Division of Parks passed the House Agricultural, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee on May.  CWF's Board Chair, John Smeltzer, testified in opposition to the bill.  Here is the text of his testimony ---

Mr. Chairman, members of House Ag, Livestock and Natural Resources, my name is John
Smeltzer. I'm a resident of Larimer County and chairman of the board of Colorado
Wildlife Federation. CWF is a statewide membership organization that has been in
existence since 1953 dealing with what we describe as "All Things Wild" in Colorado.
Our focus is on education, participation in policy and regulatory processes, and
leading discussions and commenting on issues such as the one before us today as
offered in SB 11 – 208. SB 11-208 is a bill that would merge the Division of Parks
and Outdoor Recreation and the Division of Wildlife into a new Division of Parks and
Wildlife while contending efficiency gains sufficient to justify the proposed
merger. We believe that contention is flawed and that merger of these two Divisions
within the Department of Natural Resources will NOT result in the outcomes so
sincerely hoped for. We likewise contend that the rush to merge these two Divisions
by July 1 precludes the public from truly understanding the implications of this
merger to Colorado communities, Colorado parks, Colorado wildlife and the services
provided by both of these long standing and important Divisions within state
government. Therefore we will ask you to vote NO today on SB 11 - 208 as currently
offered. And, if you are not inclined to kill the bill before us .....to amend it
such that the public has a reasonable amount of time to examine the policy shifts
contained herein, understand the ultimate trade-offs and public costs in terms of
real dollars (efficiencies) and the losses or gains at the community levels
(effectiveness) that so far have not even been a whisper in this time constrained
debate over the "goodness" of this effort.

Agenda's .... everybody has at least one for sure. There are a LOT of things
happening in this country and world at the moment ...examples includes such things
as last nights reporting of world changing events in Pakistan and
an ongoing domestic fiscal crisis the likes of which we all haven't really seen in
our lifetimes. So ... we understand that difficult times require difficult
measures. I don't live with "rose-colored" glasses.

We contend that if the real issue before us is truly about efficiencies, and true
savings of dollars, and/or cutting positions to reduce the overall size of
government ..... we should give the agencies their targets via budgets and personnel
allocations and let them figure it out. They are all bright and capable people and
will get the job done.  They've proven that year in and year out for over 100 years
now.   Now, keep in mind that both key elements ... budget and personnel allocations
... are under your oversight and decision-making authority... not the agencies and
certainly not the individual employees.   However, if this is about policy shifts,
which we believe lay not so hidden in the words that compelled the phrase "embedded
in the past" to become the tag line grabbed from the Senate testimony a few weeks
ago ... then further public debate and disclosure is not only in order …... IT
SHOULD BE A REQUIREMENT of good public process …....  lest these major policy shifts
slip through this process “embedded” in 45 pages of government-ease ..... policy
shifts that do not favor nor maintain the support for the one constituency that has
been willing to consistently pay the bills for management all wildlife of this state
for that same 100 plus years .... hunters and anglers. It appears to us that we are
about to break a long tradition of faith with those customers in which their dollars
are spend on the highest priority wildlife management projects and not to bail out
failing parks operations.

Government grows because the system ... you and I .... gives it opportunity to
grow.   It does NOT grow because of inefficiencies slipped in at the margins of the
system. Therefore, simply reducing budgets seems an easy solution to budget
short-falls doesn't it? It gets straight to the point on both the fiscal issues and
the organizational size issues .... but no ... no easy solutions are offered up in
such a political climate nor are they really seemingly being considered at all.  So,
instead we need to surround such a topic with words like "efficiencies" and
"transparency" and "good government" ..... to create an appropriate and sufficient
cover that most folks, most citizens, particularly those not paying attention ....
shrug it off as OK ... "what's up next?" .. and then move on. We figuratively "Kick
the Can" down the road one more time and make some points for "saving money" and
"dealing with the size of government."

As I mentioned earlier .... we heard stated in the testimony during the Senate
Ag/Natural Resources hearing the words "embedded in the past." .. a phrase use to
describe what I believe left little doubt to mean those of us who have a passion for
hunting and angling and "All Things Wild" in many ways.   You all just need to know
that for better or worse .... I'm one of those "embedded in the past" I guess.  I
hear folks saying the same thing about the Constitution as well ... that those of us
who support it are also "embedded in the past" ... so I believe I'm in good company
then.

American hunters and anglers have for over 100 years been the one consistent group
willing to "put up" their hard earned dollars in both license costs and excise taxes
and thereby have created the best wildlife conservation and management program this
world has ever known .... no small feat. One to be extremely proud of for sure. We
have worked hard to maintain the true Legacy of fish, wildlife and habitats in ways
only dreamed about in most of the rest of the world.

Legacy .... its about the Legacy that we pass to our children. Imagine the day not
too far in the future where that legacy has changed from one of working hard
restoring wild trout stocks and catching a fish produced right there in the free
flowing streams of Colorado to stocking and catching only hatchery fish in parks and
only paying lip service to wild trout and wild streams while population growth
forces us to consume that all important last drop of water from those once wonderful
streams. Imagine a day where the legacy becomes one of closing the doors on the
"wild" ... aka the park at 10:30.  Imagine the day where all hunting is fee hunting,
increasingly on private lands, and we pay to support more and more captive
populations of fenced in wild-life and only the rich can even hunt them ... not the
"rest" of us .... that's the European model and folks moved to this great land in no
small part to get away from that sort of elitist thinking. Imagine all of that here
... in Colorado. It may be sooner than you think.   I contend that the policy shifts
buried in this document work to set the stage for a more rapid degradation of that
legacy.   At least tell the public what you intend here ... give them time to fully
understand it.

  Community ... it also about community.   The District Wildlife Manager concept was
in no small way implemented first in Colorado.  A District Wildlife Manager isn't
just a "Game Warden" and isn't just into "law enforcement".   Granted, that's an
extremely important aspect of the job, but its only part of a community
service-based position that ........ when it operates correctly as implemented by
the likes of former officer of the year Bob Holder in Trinidad and many others like
Bob around the state ...... its a position that becomes one of the most effective
ways that state government truly provides a daily interface, a knowledgeable voice,
 between a large and widely distributed state agency and the people of the
state.    This merger threatens that community based multi-purpose concept with
replacement by a single purpose "law enforcement" model.    And the "go to" guy or
gal of the last 40 years may well be constrained to do pretty much only law
enforcement .... all in the name of efficiencies with little or no consideration of
effectiveness of a time proven model.   Where's the public discussion about that
very conceivable outcome?   Do the rural communities of Colorado even know that's
possible?    I think not.  

This decision before us in our opinion is more about working to kill our wildlife
Legacy and possibly cast away a time proven community based service model ......
through this “Shotgun Wedding” of two very different agencies .......  two agencies
with very different albeit important missions ......... by taking advantage of a
real fiscal crisis that does impact all of us.    But in the face of that fiscal
crisis the ONLY alternative offered is this merger proposition.   WHERE ARE THE
ALTERNATIVES?   and WHY SUCH A BIG RUSH WITH ALL OF THE "TRUST US" PROVISIONS.    

  We ask for your NO vote to SB 11-208 as currently written.  

John F. Smeltzer

Chairman of the Board

Colorado Wildlife Federation
 

 

 

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