CWF Updates: re Merging DOW and Parks

April 15, 2011

Update April 15: See this letter to the editor written by Thomas Huerkamp of Orchard City in today's Delta County Independent

 http://www.deltacountyindependent.com/opinion/20750-merger-could-be-devastating-to-dow-and-its-mission.html

 Update April 4:

John Mumma,  Former Director, Colorado Division of Wildlife, wrote this column that appeared in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent  today -- "Proposed DOW and Parks Merger Lacking in Vision."    Thank you, John. 

This column is reprinted immediately below:

The proposed merger of the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Colorado State Parks could end up costing the state in the long run.

For decades the Colorado Division of Wildlife has been recognized as the leader in wildlife and fishery management in the United States. It consistently receives that recognition by member states of the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, as well as national conservation, wildlife and fishery organizations. 

These recognitions are the direct result of having top-notch professional employees dedicated to their lifelong work. Their hard-earned efforts have made the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW) the envy of all other state wildlife and fish agencies.

I could list the many innovative programs they are involved with in research, law enforcement, public relations, management, nongame, big game, fisheries, habitat and technical resource mapping. However there are far too many to include here.

Well over 70 years ago, America's outdoor hunters and anglers worked diligently at the national level to pass a landmark piece of legislation called Pittman-Robertson, which enabled individual states to receive revenue from the sale of certain outdoor products. The bill was signed into law in 1937 by then President Franklin Roosevelt.

This was followed by two additional pieces of national legislation, referred to as Dingell-Johnson and Wallop-Breaux, regarding the sale of fishing products. The revenue from all three pieces of legislation has provided significant funds to every state game and fish department.

It's significant to emphasize that these funds are not typical tax funds collected at the state level.

Many citizens of Colorado are unaware that their tax dollars aren't used to finance the Division of Wildlife. What does finance Colorado's wildlife and fish programs is the sale of hunting and fishing licenses.

So, the users and supporters of these great programs provide for the revenue and enjoy the benefits. In Colorado, the combined revenue received from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2010 was close to $21 million. The sale of hunting and fishing licenses in Colorado approximates $74 million annually.

There are some very specific requirements attached to the federal funds intended to prevent state legislators from dipping into them for other purposes. The Pittman-Robertson Law requires each state legislature to agree not to spend the federal funds on anything except wildlife and fish programs. Colorado agreed to do just that.

When times are economically tough, it's human nature for state legislators to look elsewhere for funds to pay for other programs. To do so, however, brings with it a situation called “diversion of funds.” To be found in “diversion” means that a state will lose the federal funds to assist in managing its wildlife and fish programs.

In the mid 1990s, our neighbor to the east, Kansas, was found to be in diversion for using wildlife funds to pay for improvements to a state park. Kansas had a combined wildlife and parks agency. States must walk a very fine line to avoid “diversion of funds” circumstances.

The proposed merger of these two state agencies should be placed on the back burner and eventually dropped from consideration. A careful review of all of the costs, alleged savings, effectiveness of programs and consequences should undergo strict analysis. A rush to judgment will have dire ramifications to the future of Colorado's magnificent wildlife and fish.

John Mumma was the director of the Colorado Division of Wildlife from 1995 to 2000. 

 

 

Update April 1: Article in Ft. Collins Coioradoan,  "DOW, parks merger bill moves forward amid calls for caution,"  

by Bobby Magill     John Smeltzer, Board Chair CWF quoted.

 http://www.coloradoan.com/article/20110401/NEWS01/104010353/DOW-parks-merger-bill-moves-forward-amid-calls-caution?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

Update March 31, as stated under News, the bill to combine Colorado Division of Wildlife and Division of State Parks, Senate Bill 11-208,  passed the Senate Agricultural, Natural Resources & Energy Committee this afternoon on a 7-0 vote.  

Here is the transcript of CWF Board Chair John Smeltzer's testimony in opposition to the bill, stating the process clearly has the cart in front of the horse:

Madam Chair … distinguished members of the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee …. my name is John F. Smeltzer and I’m here today as the Chairman of the Board of the Colorado Wildlife Federation.

The Colorado Wildlife Federation is a membership organization that has worked to protect fish, wildlife and their habitats and preserve the North American model of hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing in Colorado since 1953.

Today we ask for your “NO” vote on SB 11-208, the bill to merge the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Colorado Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation.   We believe that the process here clearly has the “Cart in Front of the Horse” and therein lies the root of our request.

A former supervisor of mine and a much appreciated mentor once advised me that it was always best to be “Precise” and “to the point” …. I will attempt to do both.

The point is not lost on the membership and leadership of CWF that these are difficult times.  And, likewise we understand that difficult times sometimes require difficult solutions and their associated difficult decisions.   But there are always alternative pathways to solutions and we ask that you consider such an alternative and provide ample and precise evidence of the savings expected in such a proposed merger BEFORE you take the substantial and very possibly unnecessary step of merging these two agencies.   

That said, this “Cart Before the Horse” solution already clearly overpromises in the name of what I would guess is an almost universally supported concept of “improved efficiencies.”  Even I, presenting these comments of concern, come here today before you with that agreement.   But we hear of postulated “Millions” in dollars of savings and therein lies one of our major concerns and a key basis for opposing this decision pathway is that NO ONE KNOWS WHAT THE SAVINGS ARE OR WHERE THEY WILL COME FROM...But yet we proceeed.  Has this become the new government model for decision making? Theory laid out without debate with over-promises in the hopes of rushing through major public policy decisions before anyone can properly react?  We, too, are all for more efficient government.  But while we consider efficiencies as the lead in these troubling times we should never overlook effectiveness as the necessary twin and should not forget that improved efficiencies can and do often lead to losses in effectiveness.

Throughout this process it seeems as if no one has acknolwledged, let alone learned from history.  This effort was already contemplated and implemented first in 1962 right here in Colorado for very similar reasons of efficiency.  Out of the merger arose the Colorado Department of Game Fish and Parks only to separate 9 tumultuous years later as the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Colorado Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation.  And, the clean-up from that prior merger continued into the 1990's.  Let's talk about that sort of overhead when we are talking about efficiencies.  History tells us that if it happened once it can certainly happen again.  In Montana today we see an effort to separate their combined agencies into separate entities because the combined agency has been "Too Powerful."  Think that could happen in Colorado?  I wouldn't underestimate the strength of the public desire to protect our wonderful natural resources here in this great State of Colorado in that equation.  History doth repeat itself we fear.

Hunters and anglers have proudly been willing to pay the freight for wildlife management throughout North America and Colorado is no exception.  For almost 107 years now hunting and fishing license dollars, supplemented since 1937 by Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration (Pitmann-Robertson) dollars and 1950 by Federal Aid in Fish Restoration (Dingell-Johnson) dollars have paid the bills and have carried the restoration of fish and wildlife populations across the continent.  Hunters and anglers are understandably proud of the fact and carry the "badge" with great honor as do the public servants who support them day in and day out... 24/7.  Unfortunately, our many and wonderful parks have not been able to establish such a dedicated force similarly willing to pay whatever it takes to "get 'er done."

Now, this fiscally driven merger if approved will place new fiscal burdens on Colorado's already beleaguered fish and wildlife resources, primarily trout, deer and elk and test the metal of the sportsmen and women who have been willing to pay the tab to date.  What's in it for them? I hear nothing about this merger that truly offers anything of real value to sportsmen and women other than a promise that the parks will stay open and we won't be diverting hunter and angler dollars if that is the case.  I don't see the need for such a rush to judgment, deciding to do this before we know truly what the costs to sportsmen and women will be and where those dollars that will be used to keep parks open will in reality come from.  There is no free lunch.

If you have never gone through a major reorganization like this one involving changing missions, reallocated or lost positions, exercising of bumping rights, hundreds of hours of meetings and miles of travel over months it's difficult to appreciate the true costs associated with such an effort in both lost work from the mere effort itself, cost in real dollars... if not new certainly lost from other priority activities, and the lingering anger that persists for literally decades. And it's easy to be somewhat dismissive about it all in the face of truly desired but literally unknown, hoped for efficiencies.

My time is up and I hope my points resonate with you as Committee Members at least a little.  We thank you for the opportunity to address this issue today.  We look forward to continuing to serve as one of the pre-eminent vanguards for fish and wildlife resources in this great State of Colorado.  Thank you.

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