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Sept. 2, 2021

To the Editor,

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) recently awarded Envision Chaffee County grant funds to join the Colorado Outdoor Regional Partnerships Initiative to help fund the continuation of its regional efforts of balancing conservation and recreation and to inform a future Statewide Conservation and Recreation Plan.

Chaffee was selected due to its strong community engagement, forward-looking strategies, and new tools combining current technology with collaborative input. The county is working to balance between providing recreation opportunities while conserving natural resources and being sensitive to potential impacts recreation has on various wildlife species.

Photo image behind the Colorado Parks and Wildlife logo courtesy of Rio Blanco Herald Times

The plan recognizes that potential impacts can be mitigated by clustering areas of recreation and associated infrastructure, avoiding areas of critical importance to wildlife such as wintering grounds or production areas (fawning/calving/lambing areas), and implementing seasonal restrictions when appropriate.

The Chaffee County Outdoor Recreation Plan and associated wildlife habitat mapping is a comprehensive and collaborative guide towards the goal of conserving wildlife populations, natural resources, and quality recreation opportunities as recreation pressure continues to increase in future years.

Even before awarding the grant, CPW staff contributed to the county planning process by providing wildlife and habitat data, analysis, and wildlife management expertise.

The Chaffee County Outdoor Recreation Plan and 2021 Wildlife Decision Support Tools for Recreation were created during a 29-month collaborative planning process with input from biologists at CPW, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Colorado Natural Heritage Program with the best local data and knowledge, public input on community priorities based on survey and economic data, and leading-edge geospatial modeling by respected scientists at the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute at Colorado State University.

The Chaffee County Outdoor Recreation Plan was adopted by the Chaffee Planning Commission in June 2021. CPW intends to share the Chaffee Plan and Tools as a model for other similar statewide coalitions.

The cooperative efforts of the county, state, federal, for-profit, non-profit, and advocacy organizations ensured full discussion of topics. During these discussions, all ideas were supported and all concerns were addressed.

A specific user group recently commissioned a review of the plan and produced a critique, offering their point of view on top of all other comments and scientific peer reviews already received.

CPW supports the Chaffee Outdoor Recreation Plan and the 2021 Wildlife Decision Support Tools for Recreation and their scientific basis. CPW will continue to consider all input to improve the tools as they are deployed by the Chaffee community and expanded to additional regions and partnerships.

As CPW promotes planning for recreation opportunities, the agency is dedicated to performing proper due diligence and balancing its mission of conserving Colorado’s natural resources.

CPW is committed to delivering historical and current wildlife trends and accurate analyses corroborated by peer reviews to best support partners and Colorado’s natural resources. CPW welcomes feedback and participation at the coalition level, from all sectors exhibiting interest in conservation and recreation.

Dan Prenzlow
Colorado Parks and Wildlife