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Global warming unites outdoor groups

Bill Scanlon
Rocky Mountain News
Vail, CO Colorado

COLORADO ” Too little snow to track elk; water too warm for trout’s liking; birds at higher elevations than they were a decade ago.

Global warming is real enough to Colorado’s anglers and hunters that they’ve embraced an idea by an environmental group to hold workshops on how to deal with changing and dwindling habitat where they hunt and fish.

“Wildlife at a Crossroads: Conserving Colorado’s Wildlife Heritage and Promoting a New Energy Future” is holding workshops Thursday in Denver, Friday in Grand Junction and Oct. 25 in Alamosa.



The workshops are sponsored by the Colorado Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited, and have the support of most of the large hunting, fishing and bird-watching groups in the state.

“In my lifetime, I have never seen a more heightened awareness or concern among hunters and anglers and guys on the street” as now, said Eddie Kochman, who retired as state aquatic wildlife manager in 2004, after 35 years with the Colorado Division of Wildlife.



David Dittloff, regional supervisor for the National Wildlife Federation, echoed that sentiment.

“There is a consensus among sportsmen and bird-watchers that climate is changing and something needs to be done to help fish and wildlife better adapt to a changing climate,” he said. “And obviously there is a consensus that oil and gas activity is drastically increasing as well.”

And with that comes a realization that efforts to protect dwindling habitat must be done in a more systematic way, Dittloff said.



There is no unanimity on why the climate is changing, but that’s not as important, he said. Some subscribe to the prevailing belief among scientists that the globe is getting warmer because humans are putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Others aren’t so sure humans are causing it, and hope that this warming trend may be replaced by a cooling trend that could last for decades.

Dittloff said think tanks sponsored by the oil and gas industries are largely responsible for raising doubts that human activity is responsible for global warming.

Some environmentalists hunt, some don’t; some hunters are for more drilling, some for less drilling.

But what unites environmentalists, hunters and anglers is the desire to protect wildlife habitat “and some of the last wild places we have left,” Kochman said.

Compared to the impacts of heavy metals in a trout fishery, or a farm turning into a condo development, global warming has a slow, creeping impact, Kochman said.

“But pretty soon you wake up one morning, and that’s it.”

That’s why it makes sense for the disparate entities to unite in opposition to reckless oil and gas development; to too-fast population growth; and to the sell off of farms and ranches, he said.

Kochman said: “I don’t think I know of one organized (sportsmen’s) group that is not actively involved in things like global climate change and the impacts of oil and gas exploration. Most of them are saying they want it done responsibly.”

Kochman worries about the trout in the higher elevations, such as the cutthroat. “It doesn’t take but a few degrees to influence the whole aquatic habitat base,” he said.

“First are the invertebrates the trout survive on; there is the egg innoculation, the reproductive cycle.

“I think warmer temperatures in Colorado are beginning to impact not just the trout fisheries, but the lower-level warm water fisheries as well.”

A week after the workshops in Denver and Grand Junction, the same organizations will join others at the state’s first Conservation Summit, Oct. 6-8 in Keystone.

The summit aims to develop policies that will ensure that Colorado’s wildlife in 2058 will be in as good or better shape than it is today.

Organizers hope to begin a broad public dialogue to promote best policies and practices.

Bryan Martin, the Colorado Mountain Club’s conservation director, said the collaborative nature of the Summit will be the key to its success.

“Public/private partnerships have become synonymous with conservation success,” he said. The Summit will bring together organizations that have never worked together before.

Neil Sperandeo, recreation manager for Denver Water, said the Colorado Conservation Summit will be the place “to create and nourish a common set of values” to protect wildlife in the face of inevitable change.

Organizations planning to attend include the Colorado Wildlife Federation, Colorado Environmental Coalition, National Wildlife Federation, Colorado Mountain Club and The Wilderness Society. Government agencies include the Colorado Division of Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service and Denver Water.

Speakers will include Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Harris Sherman and U.S. Fish and Wildlife regional director Stephen Guertin.


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