On June 6, Governor Hickenlooper signed into law the bill to merge the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Division of Parks. The combined agency is the Division of Parks and Wildlife. The merger is to become effective on July 1. On June 10, the Wildlife Commission and the Parks Board will interview in an executive session the three finalists who applied for the director position. They hope to reach consensus (subject to approval of the executive director of DNR) and extend a job offer. Two external panels and an employee panel interviewed the three candidates on May 31 and provided feedback to the Chairs of the Wildlife Commission and Parks Board and the Executive Director. The panels did not rate or rank the candidates. CWF’s Suzanne O’Neill was included in one of the panels.
Here is an article written on June 6 in the Durango Herald by Joe Hanel. CWF’s Communications Director, Todd Malmsbury is quoted:
Governor signs bill to merge parks, wildlife
DENVER – The merger of Colorado’s divisions of Wildlife and State Parks is a done deal, thanks to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s approval Monday.
Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 208 at Sylvan Lake State Park near Eagle. It’s his highest-profile achievement in his pledge to make government more efficient.
The legislative work is over, but now managers at the two agencies will have to combine them over the next several months.
The new joint board that will oversee the Division of Parks and Wildlife will meet Friday in Grand Junction to interview three finalists to lead the new agency. The interviews will take place behind closed doors.
A new chief could be hired by next week, said Mike King, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources. An employee team of six people from each agency has already met four or five times to work on the merger.
“They’ve been incredibly productive. Folks are rolling up their sleeves and getting after it,” King said.
The new parks and wildlife board will have a public meeting in July in Denver, and it will meet monthly in different towns for the rest of the year to figure out how to finish the merger.
Before the merger, state parks were in trouble. Hickenlooper had moved to close or downgrade four parks, with perhaps more on the chopping block next year.
King told the Legislature at least 25 jobs overlap in the two agencies and can be consolidated when the current employees retire or take new jobs.
But groups like the Colorado Wildlife Federation continue to question how efficient the new organization will be.
“All of us are waiting to see what, if any, cost savings actually occur,” said Todd Malmsbury, the CWF’s communications director.
The new agency will have to be careful not to use wildlife funds from hunters and the federal government to prop up parks. If it did, the federal government could take back its money.
“We do not want to see any reduction in wildlife management, the science necessary to sustain that management or the reduction of core habitats,” Malmsbury said.
King has promised that hunting money will not be used improperly for parks.
He has to report to the Legislature by Feb. 29, 2012, about how the merger is going.
On May 6, the bill to merge the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Division of Parks passed the House by a vote of 49-12. The bill now moves to the Governor’s desk.
On May 2, the bill to merge the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Division of Parks passed out of the House Agricultural, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee on a 10-3 vote. CWF’s Board Chair, John Smeltzer, testified in opposition to the bill. The text of his testimony appears under Our Stand at the bottom left of this home page.