Colorado House Bill 12-1317 re composition of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission passed in the House on April 18 on a 35-30 vote. This bill, as passed, was amended on the House Floor on 2nd reading April 16. CWF had opposed the bill because it does not reflect the recommendation made by the Commission at its December meeting, following months of deliberation and public comment at its meetings and via the Department of Natural Resources website. The Commission’s recommendation is similar to that made by CWF on September 29. In our view, this bill impairs the balance that the recommendation had achieved among the community of users and interests. We are concerned that 4 or more seats might become held by persons whose current profession/occupation involves wildlife only from the vantage point of a commercial interest, and that would form the perspective of the individual’s decision making.
The bill now provides for the following voting seats: 3 sportmen/women seats including a hunting/fishing outfitter; 3 agricultural seats [actively involved in production agriculture as owners or lessees and as owners of the commodities produced on the land]; 3 parks and outdoor recreation seats which includes a seat for a representative of a nonconsumptive wildlife organization and one of these 3 seats must have a background in motorized and nonmotorized trail-related pursuits; and 2 at-large seats. The 2 ex officio nonvoting seats remain for the Executive Director of DNR and the Commissioner of Department of Agriculture. The bill also includes this provision: “the Governor shall make appointments that ensure that a reasonable balance of the following areas of knowledge and experience, as they relate to parks and wildlife, are represented: Outdoor business, service as a current or former elected official, youth outdoor education, wildlife biology or science, energy, conservation, beneficial uses of water, and wildlife habitat and management. In order to satisfy the requirements of this paragraph (b), the Governor shall give preference to persons with experience or expertise in multiple areas of knowledge.” The bill also states that at least 5 voting members shall be appointed from the West Slope.
History of bill –– The hearing on the House bill was Monday afternoon, February 27 in the House Committee on Agriculture, Livestock & Natural Resources. CWF testified at the hearing in opposition to the bill and urged a return to, or a composition similar to, the Commission’s – and CWF’s recommendation.
On March 7, the bill passed the House Ag Committee, with an amendment, on a 9-4 vote and was referred and passed in the House Committee on Appropriations. Note that this bill was amended on March 7 to add a member “who represents a nonprofit organization that supports and promotes the conservation and enhancement of Colorado’s wildlife and habitat; recognizes and promotes primarily nonconsumptive wildlife use; and has expertise in wildlife issues, wildlife habitat, or wildlife management.” In addition, the outfitter seat is no longer 1 of the 3 sportsmen’s seats but is a separate seat. That means there would be 3 sportsmen’s seats and 1 outfitter seat. The number of outdoor recreation/parks seats would change from 5 to 3 in amended para. 3(a) III. The paragraph quoted below was changed from business to “outdoor business,” it strikes conservation and adds “beneficial uses of water.” A new paragraph has been added to provide “regardless of the particular interests or qualifications possessed by each member appointed to the Commission… each Commissioner represents diverse parks, wildlife, and outdoor recreation throughout Colorado.” A quorum was clarified in the amended bill to state that 6 voting members constitutes a quorum rather than simply 6 members. (The problem was that under the original bill a quorum could consist of 4 voting members plus the 2 ex officio members.) In addition, the amended bill deletes the requirement that no more than 4 voting members may be appointed from the combined eastern plains and Denver metro area.
Provisions as originally introduced were a composition of 3 sportsmen/women including a hunting/fishing outfitter; 3 agriculture seats; and 5 parks and outdoor recreation seats, one of which must have a background in motorized and nonmotorized trails. Bill retains the ex officio seats for DNR Executive Director and Commissioners of Department of Agriculture. It also provided that the Governor “shall make appointments that ensure that a reasonable balance of the following areas of knowledge, as they relate to parks and wildlife, are represented: business, wildlife biology or science, energy, conservation, nonconsumptive wildlife uses, nonprofit organizations, off-highway vehicle use, and wildlife habitat and management. In order to satisfy the requirements of this paragraph (b), the Governor shall give preference to persons with experience or expertise in multiple areas of knowledge.” The bill had also provided that no more than 4 voting members may be appointed from the combined Eastern plains and the Denver metro area.
The following was the Commission’s recommendation of December 2011 which CWF supports and had recommended on 9/29/11:
At its December meeting (12/8-9) the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission settled on its final recommendations on Legislative Declaration, Agency Mission and Commission Composition:
Commission’s Recommended Legislative Declaration –The Commission recommends that the statute include the following legislative declaration: It is the policy of the state of Colorado that the wildlife, natural, scenic, and scientific resources of this state are to be protected, preserved, enhanced, and managed for the use, benefit, and enjoyment of the people of this state and its visitors. It is further declared to be the policy of this state that there shall be provided a comprehensive program designed to offer the greatest possible variety of recreational opportunity to the people of this state and its visitors and that, to carry out such program and policy, there shall be a continuous operation of planning, acquisition, development and management of wildlife habitats, state parks, outdoor recreation lands, trails, waters, and facilities, and that both education and outreach activities will be designed to promote natural resource stewardship.
The Commission recommends the following mission statement be adopted to guide the agency in its future operations:
The mission of the Division of Parks and Wildlife is to perpetuate the wildlife resources of the state, to provide a quality state park system, and to provide enjoyable and sustainable outdoor recreation opportunities that educate and inspire current and future generations to serve as active stewards of Colorado’s natural resources.
The Commission recommends that the statute include a preamble stating that the Parks and Wildlife Commission is established to serve the citizens of Colorado and articulating desired characteristics that a Governor should consider in selecting members, such as areas of particular knowledge and expertise (e.g. business, science), areas of experience (e.g. service on other boards and or commissions, public-sector management), demonstrated leadership, or frequent use of resources managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Such characteristics would help ensure that the Commission has the ability to respond to the changing needs of the agency.
The Commission recommends that the statute set out a Commission with 11 voting members and 2 ex-officio members, comprised of the following members. This composition is consistent with recommendations CWF made to the Commission in September. The next step is for Rep. Sonnenberg and Sen. Schwartz to introduce legislation. WE are hopeful that the legislation reflects the Commission’s recommendation:
— 2 voting members who are agricultural landowners or producers:
—– 1 member with experience in livestock production.
—– 1 member with experience in crop production.
— 2 voting members who are sportsmen or sportswomen who have purchased or applied for a hunting or fishing license for each of the previous three years or who can demonstrate reasonable knowledge of wildlife issues, wildlife habitat, and wildlife management, and/or the Commission’s duties, procedures, policies, authority, and past decisions.
— 2 voting members with experience in outdoor recreation who can demonstrate reasonable knowledge of parks and outdoor recreation resources and management, and/or the Commission’s duties, procedures, policies, authority, and past decisions.
–1 voting member who is a county commissioner.
–1 voting member whois a member of a nonprofit organization that supports and promotes the conservation and enhancement of Colorado’s wildlife and its habitat, that recognizes and promotes primarily non-consumptive wildlife use, and that has expertise in wildlife issues, wildlife habitat, or wildlife management.
–3 voting at-large members.
–2 non-voting, ex officio members:
—–Executive Director, Dept. of Natural Resources
—–Commissioner, Dept. of Agriculture
The statute should provide that at least one Commissioner (but no more than 3) must be from each of the five districts set out for the former Wildlife Commission (see 33-9-101(1)(c)), and that no more than six of the members may be from the same political party. Both of these provisions would include at-large members, but not ex-officio members.