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Parks & Wildlife seeks input

'Path Forward'
will guide
merged agencies

DENVER - Colorado's new Parks and Wildlife division is reaching out for public help to craft a long-term plan.

The agency is working on its "Path Forward," a five-year plan that is due to the Legislature in December. Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Legislature merged the former divisions of Wildlife and State Parks in 2011.

"In the past we had 'wildlife' stakeholders and 'parks' stakeholders," said Rick Cables, director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, in a news release. "Now we're all working together in new ways to manage Colorado's natural amenities and recreational resources."

The agency plans to hold public meetings around the state later this summer, but it has not yet released a schedule.

The new Parks and Wildlife Commission has already identified three key areas it where wants the agency to focus: recruiting new people to use public lands, whether it's by hiking or hunting; protecting habitat; and financial sustainability. Both of the former agencies were working along those lines before the merger, said Dave Chadwick, a public participation specialist with the agency.

"The merged agencies really spotlighted these three themes even more," Chadwick said.

At the time of the merger in 2011, State Parks was enduring budget cuts and financial troubles, but the Division of Wildlife was relatively flush, thanks to revenue from hunting licenses.

However, simultaneous to the merger, accountants uncovered mismanagement of wildlife accounts that made the agency's leaders think they had $32 million more than they actually did.

The merger is intended to save the state money by combining duplicative office jobs and sharing equipment and vehicles among park rangers and wildlife officers.

This is Colorado's second experience with a combined wildlife and parks agency. The Legislature split the agencies apart in 1972.

Visit wildlife.state.co.us/About/Pages/PathForward.aspx to learn more about the five-year plan.

The page will be updated in the coming days, Chadwick said.

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