Colo. conservation summit focuses on wildlife |

Colo. conservation summit focuses on wildlife

Judith Kohler
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado

DENVER, Colorado ” Conservation groups, land managers and others will gather in a statewide summit next month to explore the growing threats that population, development and loss of farmland pose to Colorado’s wildlife.

The Colorado Conservation Summit Oct. 6-8 in Keystone will examine the future of wildlife and habitat over the next 50 years. Speakers lined up include Gov. Bill Ritter, U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Regional Forester Rick Cables and the federal Bureau of Land Management’s Colorado director, Sally Wisely.

Topics will include land use, population growth, water, climate change, outreach to youth and recruiting the next generation of hunters and anglers. Organizers hope the conference will produce short- and long-term recommendations and more public awareness.

The idea grew from talks last November among hunters, anglers, environmentalists, retired state wildlife officers and current officials, including state natural resources chief Harris Sherman.

“We feel that wildlife is at a crossroads,” said, Eddie Kochman, a retired state fisheries manager. “We’re looking at the status of wildlife habitat today and what we want it to look like 50 years down the road.

“And once we define it, what can we do to make it happen,” Kochman added.

Wildlife are an important part of Colorado’s economy and heritage. Hunting and fishing generate an estimated $2 billion in direct and indirect benefits for Colorado communities. The state boasts some of the country’s largest deer and elk herds.

But Colorado’s population is projected to increase from 4.3 million to more than 7 million by 2030. Agricultural land is being replaced by subdivisions and thousands more oil and gas wells are predicted in addition to the thousands already drilled.

“There are huge implications for the state’s wildlife and habitat that we’re only beginning to wrestle with,” said Paul Drey, who’s working with the Colorado Wildlife Heritage Foundation, a summit sponsor.

Drey said the majority of the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s revenue comes from hunting and fishing license fees, so there’s concern about the future of the sports as young people spend less time outdoors.

Organizers have invited participants with wide-ranging interests, including Colorado Agriculture Commissioner John Stulp and energy industry representatives.

“If we really care about what’s happening, there has to be some involvement other than sitting in the bleachers and complaining,” Kochman said. “If my grandkids are going to grow up and see what I’ve seen, we have to shift gears a little.”

2008 Colorado Conservation Summit:

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