Over 180 people gathered yesterday at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Commission meeting in Fort Collins, CO, to discuss the two proposed carnivore killing studies in the Piceance Basin and the Upper Arkansas River. Despite vocal public opposition and their questionable scientific rationalizations, the CPW Commission unanimously voted to approve the killing studies.
42 public testimonies were given at this meeting; 17 in favor and 25 opposing.
Public outcry has been pouring in for months. Between the Endangered Species Coalition, the Humane Society of the United States, WildEarth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Sierra Club, just under 9,000 communications have been sent to the Commission opposing these studies. This does not include letters sent directly from individuals to the Commission, numerous op-eds (Denver Post, Daily Camera, and the Coloradoan, to name a few), and articles (like this one: Denver Post) in local papers.
During the meeting, it was confirmed that these two studies will cost $4.5 million over the next nine years. A curious move for an agency with a projected budget shortfall of “between $15 million and $23 million by 2023.”
Jeff Van Steeg, CPW’s Assistant Director of Policy and Planning, rationalized the studies in his presentation by saying that CPW has done predator management before, 3 times in fact – twice in 2011 and once in 2013. When asked about the findings of these prior projects, he reluctantly said that no valid conclusions could be made whether lethally removing predators helped the prey populations. Sound familiar?
As a result of the unanimous vote, this winter CPW will “move ahead in their experiment to use cage traps, culvert traps, foot snares and hunting dogs to immobilize mountain lions and bears. Then those caught would be shot (Denver Post).”
Even with their shaky scientific rationalizations and strong public opposition, the Commission still approved the studies. However, let’s not forget the appointment of the 11 voting members of the Commission is not balanced to represent the values of Coloradans, both rural and urban alike.
Four people during the public comment period, all in favor of the studies, said that there is no room for emotions, that only science should be considered when deliberating the studies. A brave woman, who opposed the studies, explained that “emotion tells us when something is wrong.” I feel that now. Something is wrong. When our public agencies prioritize disrupting ecosystems and killing wildlife over sound science and public opinion, something is very wrong.
We will continue to vocally oppose these killing studies despite the vote. We will continue to close the ideological gap separating “us” from “them.”