Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Written by Brandon Diamond

Public Lands in Crested Butte and Gunnison

My relationship with Gunnison and Crested Butte began in earnest during the 1980’s. As a Colorado kid hunting, fishing and exploring Colorado’s wild places were a prominent part of my family’s culture. Our annual trips to Gunnison County were anticipated and esteemed like all other major holidays! Fast forward to the mid 1990’s when I was fortunate enough to attend what is now Western Colorado University. Despite the constant distraction of unexplored public lands, cutthroat streams and hunting seasons, I received my degree and continued working towards a career in wildlife management. Much has changed across Colorado since then, but these formative years associated with the Gunnison Basin helped instill a wildlife conservation ethos within me that has spanned my lifetime.

What Does Colorado Parks and Wildlife Do?

CPW is the primary wildlife management agency in Colorado. Our mission is “to perpetuate the wildlife resources of the state, to provide a quality state parks system, and to provide enjoyable and sustainable outdoor recreation opportunities that educate and inspire current and future generations to serve as active stewards of Colorado’s natural resources.” For those that aren’t aware, CPW is a Division of Colorado State Government and from a wildlife management standpoint is funded primarily through the sales of hunting and fishing licenses. This funding mechanism is an important distinction from other state agencies and a source of great pride for Colorado’s hunting and angling communities. This “user-pay, public-benefits” model accommodates the wise use of sustainable wildlife resources for license buyers. It also provides inherent benefit to the general, non-license buying public by ensuring wildlife populations and open spaces are maintained and may be enjoyed by all. Not to be taken for granted, the remarkable wildlife resources we all enjoy today did not happen by accident. They are a testament to decades of advocacy and investment by conservation-minded Americans and Coloradans, to whom we collectively owe a great debt.

Fishing in Gunnison, Colorado

Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Gunnison

As the Area Wildlife Manager for CPW in Gunnison, I am part of a team that has the unique opportunity and responsibility to manage and advocate for wildlife and wildlife habitats across our communities on both public and private lands. Part of our role as a public trust is to serve as a voice for the voiceless. Over the course of my career, I’ve come to recognize how increasingly small our landscapes are becoming and how fragile our wildlife resources sometimes are. For folks that have recently moved to Gunnison County that may sound strange. I imagine Gunnison or Crested Butte may still seem like the Wild West to many. From a long-time Game Warden and Wildlife Biologist’s perspective, please trust me when I say that our wildlife and their habitats are quite finite. It will take a proverbial village to succeed if we want to maintain these resources in perpetuity.

Wildlife in Crested Butte and Gunnison

Wildlife is arguably one of the primary draws to Gunnison County for both residents and visitors and is fundamental to quality of life across our communities. The rich and diverse wildlife resources found across our County are cause for celebration. They provide intrinsic ecological and aesthetic value, as well as significant economic contributions. Gunnison County is home to a variety of wildlife species and management issues. It is certainly an awe inspiring and humbling setting to be a professional manager. Currently, CPW is engaged in a variety of notable local wildlife projects. Following the historic winter of 2007-08, a mule deer survival and monitoring study was initiated that entails radio collaring and monitoring 90 does and 60 fawns annually. Native fish reclamation projects are always on our radar. Cutthroat trout once again inhabit a reach of historic habitat in the Powderhorn Valley thanks to strong collaboration with the Bureau of Land Management and partnerships with local stockgrowers. We remain engaged in management of our locally famous, and Federally Threatened, Gunnison Sage-Grouse with an emphasis on habitat conservation and restoration and population monitoring. Most recently, CPW has initiated a mountain lion density estimation project. This will entail marking and monitoring 20-25 mountain lions across the Gunnison Basin in order to gain local population estimates. CPW’s endeavors across the County are wide-ranging and span the gamut of fur, feather and fin. Now in 2022, management of wildlife has become increasingly complex in conjunction with an increasingly complex Colorado. Priorities for CPW are continuously evolving.

Conservation in Gunnison and Crested Butte

A wise man once said, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” This quote is spot-on for modern-day wildlife management. Wildlife management and conservation is both a short and long-game and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, along with our many partners continue to seek out ways to educate and inspire wildlife stewards. In the spirit of stewardship and collaboration, I would respectfully submit the following question: can we strike a legitimate balance between human development, competing land uses and wildlife conservation? Theodore Roosevelt, a well-known historic ambassador for wildlife, provided sage advice, “The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak, so we must and we will.” Roosevelt reminds us that our communities, both locally and abroad, will collectively dictate the wildlife legacy we leave for future generations.

The Sustainable Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee

A Wildlife Area Manager with Colorado Parks and Wildlife rides a horse in Gunnison, Colorado.

While we may have many challenges ahead, the good news is that partnerships like Gunnison County’s Sustainable Tourism and Outdoor Recreation (STOR) Committee provide a timely platform for engagement with these types of questions and for broader collaboration and conservation planning in our fast-paced, rapidly changing world. Colorado Parks and Wildlife appreciates our seat at the table and the relationships we’ve developed with our many and diverse partners. We commend Gunnison County for their consideration, foresight and demonstrated track record of supporting sound wildlife management and conservation. As a professional wildlife manager and deep-rooted community member of Gunnison County, I can’t imagine a world without wildlife and wild places and the privileges they afford us.

If you’re interested in state and local wildlife issues check out the CPW website.

Do Colorado Right

The Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) is encouraging visitors to Do Colorado Right by being responsible travelers. Plan ahead, practice Leave No Trace in the outdoors, be safe in the backcountry and exercise kindness and care to make the most of your time in Colorado.

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