The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission honored the legacy of local rancher John Fetcher, a water visionary who was instrumental in the creation of Steamboat Lake and Stagecoach State Parks, during its monthly meeting Thursday in Steamboat Springs.
Fetcher’s son, Jay, was presented with a partnership award from Colorado Parks and Wildlife Director Rick Cables while a number of family friends and local dignitaries observed from the audience.
“As you all know, Steamboat Lake and Stagecoach State Parks play a vital role in the quality of life in the Yampa Valley,” said Cables. “We are very proud to manage these properties and the many others that benefit this part of the state.”
Fetcher, who also helped develop the Yamcola Reservoir on the Yampa headwaters in the late 1970s, served as the manager of the Upper Yampa Valley Water Conservancy District from its formation in 1966 to his death at age 97 in 2009.
In the early 1960s, Fetcher was approached by Colorado Game Fish and Parks, who asked him to consider building a lake in the Hahn’s Peak Basin. Steamboat Lake, which inundated 70 percent of the cattle ranch that Fetcher and his brother purchased in 1949, filled during its first snowmelt season. Fetcher paddled across the new lake on a surfboard to attend the dedication.
“Those of you who knew my dad knew his passion for water,” Jay Fetcher said. “He had a vision that this land was worth more as a recreational asset than for agriculture and he was right.”
During the late 1980s, Fetcher played a leading role in the creation of Stagecoach, which joined Steamboat Lake as a fixture in the region’s recreational economy. Fetcher, who grew up in Chicago and learned to ski in Switzerland, also left his mark in the design of safer ski-jumping hills and is credited with helping to bring Steamboat Springs Resort into the modern age. His name is enshrined in the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.
The partnership award was presented to the Fetcher family “in recognition of our outstanding partnership and your family’s dedicated service to the people of the Yampa River Valley.”
During the afternoon session, commissioners considered recommendations for new mission statement for the agency created by the merger of Colorado State Parks with the Division of Wildlife and changes that could reduce its membership from 14 to nine commissioners. The board had intended to vote on its recommendations for the new agency’s mission, legislative declaration and board composition but opted to defer the vote for a month to receive additional public input.
“We need to have the dialogue because I don’t feel the commission is ready to make a decision today,” said Chairman Tim Glenn.
Kim Burgess, the Chief Operating Officer of the Department of Natural Resources, told commissioners that the DNR web page has posted employee work group reports designed to evaluate core functions within Colorado Parks and Wildlife with a goal of identifying alternatives to eliminate unnecessary duplication create efficiencies and cost savings and enhance the effectiveness of programs and operations while fulfilling the mission of the agency.
Burgess told commissioners that the reports developed by the Work Groups provide the starting point for a robust dialogueamong stakeholders, the public, the Parks and Wildlife Commission, agency leadership and employees about how to most successfully implement the merger. DNR is seeking public comment on the alternatives through Nov. 10. To view the work group reports and to provide public comment, please go to: http://dnr.state.co.us/DPW/Pages/PublicInput.aspx.
In other action, Commissioners voted to continue until November a proposal to amend rafting regulations to allow a wider range of acceptable personal flotation devices for commercial passengers on regulated river trips. Commissioners were concerned that the proposed regulations were not clear enough for the public and enforcement officers. Commissioners asked River Outfitter Licensing program staff for additional information on the potential impact of the changes on public safety.
Later, Area Wildlife Manager Travis Black of Lamar delivered an update on the Big Game Access Program, which was originally launched as a three-year pilot program in 2007. Now in its fifth year, the BGAP program has provided quality big-game hunting access on the Eastern Plains while helping to build relationships between wildlife managers and private landowners. The program has an annual budget of $100,000 for leases, signage and staff time.
Black said that BGAP continues to increase in popularity with hunters even as harvest numbers have leveled out. However, he said that finite funding has stretched the program to its limits and said asked the commission if staff could explore alternative funding opportunities in an effort to maintain it. Commissioners asked Black to develop a proposal for presentation at the November meeting in Yuma.
The Commission approved the capture and translocation of 20 to 25 Gunnison sage-grouse to a site in Monticello, Utah, contingent on the state of Utah obtaining a conservation easement of the site. The Monticello site is considered to be one of the species’ important satellite populations but biologists observed a significant decline in breeding males during 2010. The proposed relocation of birds from the sage-grouse’s Gunnison Valley stronghold is intended to supplement the Monticello population.
The Parks and Wildlife Commission meets monthly and travels to communities around the state to facilitate public participation in its processes. During the remainder of 2011, the Board has scheduled meetings in Burlington in November and Fort Collins in December. The complete agenda for the October Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting can be found on the Commission web page at: http://wildlife.state.co.us/ParksWildlifeCommission/Archives/2011/Pages/Oct132011.aspx.
The October meeting was held at the Holiday Inn, 3190 S. Lincoln Avenue in Steamboat Springs. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission is a 14-member board appointed by the governor. The Parks and Wildlife Commission sets regulations and policies for Colorado’s state parks wildlife programs.