A Colorado legislative committee voted 4-1 to defeat a bill to ban the hunting and trapping of mountain lions and bobcats.
A new coalition called the Colorado Wildlife Conservation Project (CWCP), of which the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is a member, provided testimony to help defeat the measure. The bill, backed by the Humane Society of the United States, as well-known anti-hunting group, originally had four sponsors but three of them withdrew support before the hearing began leaving only Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee Vice Chair Jaquez Lewis as its only sponsor.
SB22-031 would have directly circumvented the statutory authority and expertise of CPW and the CPW Commission to advance the goals of special interests who do not reflect the opinion of the majority of Coloradans. The alliance directed thousands of calls and emails to members of the General Assembly in opposition to the bill.
“As hunters and anglers, we back science-based wildlife management. We believe that wildlife decisions belong to Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) – our expert wildlife agency. Funded by hunters and anglers, Colorado’s wildlife and their habitat are in good hands with the world’s most capable biologists, researchers and managers at CPW,” said Luke Wiedel, RMEF volunteer and Colorado resident. “With 75 percent of its funding coming from hunting and angling dollars, Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages 960 species of wildlife, many hundreds of non-game species also benefit for the enjoyment of all Coloradans. Only 80 of those 960 species are huntable species. This is a model of conservation success that should be a model endorsed by all of us, especially by those in government as we look into the future of wildlife conservation.”
The lone vote in favor of the bill came from Jaquez.
The CWCP includes the membership of 20 different national, state and regional wildlife and conservation organizations and collectively represents tens-of-thousands of hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts across Colorado. The CWCP is steadfast in its commitment to ensure the responsible management of wildlife continues to be conducted by professional biologists and wildlife experts at Colorado Parks and Wildlife informed by the best-available science.
“The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation advocates for scientific wildlife management overseen by state wildlife agency biologists and game managers,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “We are confident the coalition members that came together to oppose this legislation will be powerful allies as we fight for habitat, public access and other hunting issues.”
RMEF has a strong presence in Colorado including more than 16,00 members across the state.
The failure of SB22-031 to advance out of the Senate Agriculture Committee is a testament to the efforts of CWCP and their representation of responsible management of wildlife resources in Colorado. The Committee’s decision demonstrates their understanding of the need for continued science-based wildlife management in the state and the role that hunters and anglers play in both funding and maintaining sustainable populations of game and non-games species alike in Colorado.
Below is the full text of Luke Wiedel when spoke on the east steps at the Colorado State Capitol in announcing the new coalition alliance.
As hunters and anglers, we back science-based wildlife management. We believe that wildlife decisions belong to Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) – our expert wildlife agency. Funded by hunters and anglers, Colorado’s wildlife and their habitat are in good hands with the world’s most capable biologists, researchers and managers at CPW. With 75 percent of its funding coming from hunting and angling dollars, Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages 960 species of wildlife, many hundreds of non-game species also benefit for the enjoyment of all Coloradans. Only 80 of those 960 species are huntable species. This is a model of conservation success that should be a model endorsed by all of us, especially by those in government as we look into the future of wildlife conservation. So we gather here today to embrace those who misunderstand this message of conservation. And we gather today to let Colorado know that we care deeply about wildlife and its habitat. It’s up to all of us here today to respectfully communicate the connectedness of our hunting and fishing traditions to the sustainable management of our wildlife resources – all 960 species. Simply put, our message is one of conservation. And we should be proud of that. This is exactly why we’re here today in the frigid cold to continue to endorse sound scientific wildlife management and to share the message of our heritage and traditions, and to oppose Senate Bill 31. Thank you so much. Your presence here is inspiring to all of us.
Here are the comments Wiedel gave while testifying before the committee:
My name is Luke Wiedel and I am here to oppose SB 31 on behalf of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
Since its inception in 1984, The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has protected and/or enhanced more than 8.1 million acres—500,000 of those acres right here in Colorado. We have 17,000 Colorado members.
Here are some of the reasons we are opposed to SB 31:
On September 25th, 2021, Governor Jared Polis signed a Proclamation endorsing National Hunting and Fishing Day in the State of Colorado. The Governor praised hunting and angling in Colorado with the following statements:
1. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is funded by Sportsmen and women. This American System of Conservation Funding, a “user pays-public benefits” model is widely recognized as the most successful model for funding fish and wildlife in the world.
2. In 2020 alone, Colorado’s sportsmen and women generated over $133 million through this system to support the conservation efforts of CPW.
3. 1.2 million hunters and anglers contribute more than $3.2 billion per year statewide while engaged in their pursuits
4. This spending supports over 25,000 jobs in Colorado and generates $187 million in state and local taxes
SB 31 would circumvent Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s statutory authority and expertise to advance the goals of special interests that do not reflect the majority of Coloradans.
CPW—with 75% of its funding coming from hunting and angling—manages 960 species of wildlife—only 80 of which are huntable, game species. All Colorado species benefit from CPW’s management, including the 880 species which are not hunted, but remain conserved and soundly managed, and funded by hunters and anglers.
Proponents of SB 31 would have you believe that we should pass the bill to “promote sound wildlife management.” This implies that what we are currently doing isn’t working and that Colorado’s wildlife is in peril. This is far from the truth! What this bill proposes is nothing other than a precedent which promises a takeover of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, which, according Governor Polis himself, is the most successful model for funding fish and wildlife in the world.
For these reasons, we respectfully ask that this committee Oppose SB 31 and not endorse legislation that is divorced from the expertise of our wildlife agency, Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Thank you so much for your time.
(Photo credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife)