GOLDEN — Earlier this week Governor Jared Polis released a report detailing how to protect big game wildlife and their habitat.
Title 33 specifies “game” as species that may be lawfully hunted or taken for food, sport, or profit, whereas “nongame” species are generally prohibited from being harmed, harassed, or killed.
The report on the wildlife happened after Gov. Polis signed an Executive Order in 2019.
The Executive Order called on state agencies to expand research and propose policy on protecting wildlife habitats.
The report identifies several habitat threats including roads, industrial activities, residential growth, and outdoor recreation.
According to the report, between 2007 and 2013, Colorado’s estimated statewide deer populations declined from 600,000 deer to approximately 390,000 deer.
The report also mentions that Colorado's ecosystems are under strain from the impacts of climate change, wildfires, and drought.
The report examines a range of options to address these challenges, including:
- implementing regulations for energy development and other land uses
- improving infrastructure to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions
- coordinating conservation funding
- planning trails with wildlife in mind
- incentivizing participation by industry and private landowners in voluntary habitat conservation efforts.
The Governor also issued a proclamation acknowledge September 29, 2021 as “Wildlife Habitat and Connectivity Day.”
“Recent efforts in the legislature, including the Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Future Generations Act in 2018 and the Keep Colorado Wild Pass bill in 2021, will provide new funding sources and direction for Colorado’s wildlife and its habitat. Additionally, the state’s updated oil and gas regulations provide new tools and protections to balance energy development and wildlife needs," said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resource.
The report states that big game population and habitat progress was not specifically being tracked until 2018 after the passage of the Future Generations Act. Because of this, the report says some of these species and their habitats have been overlooked.
CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew also recognized the need to improve transportation infrastructure that allows wildlife to safely cross highways and roads.
“Wildlife-vehicle collisions pose a risk to people and wildlife alike. An average of 3,300 these incidents are reported to CDOT every year, many of which result in injury to passengers and animal mortality, not to mention thousands of dollars in property damage. There is a significant need to increase funding for wildlife infrastructure, such as under- or overpasses, which we know can be highly effective at improving public safety and conditions for wildlife,” said Director Lew.
CDOT also notes that wild-life vehicle collisions cost $66.4 million annually in property damage and human injury. The report outlines that wildlife crossing projects can help solve this issue, but that it can be costly to construct them, costing $1 million at least. However, the report lists these types of projects as a high-priority, since they've shown to be successful over the years, with some research suggesting that wildlife crossing structures can reduce crashes by up to 80-90 percent.
The report also notes that traffic has dramatically increased at National Parks and that another way to keep wildlife safe is better planning of trails. The report suggests "maintaining low route densities in high-priority habitats."
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