COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.  – Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commissioners Thursday set mountain lion hunting harvest limits for 2012 and considered changes in hunting regulations to address late-winter conflicts with turkeys on agricultural properties on some parts of the Eastern Plains.

Commissioners also directed staff to continue exploring the environmental protections that would be needed to develop natural gas or oil at St. Vrain State Park in Longmont. In addition, they received an update on the planned integration of Bonny Lake State Park into the adjacent South Republican State Wildlife area after Bonny Lake is drained to provide water to Kansas under the Republican River compact.

The Commissioners met at the Doubletree Hotel, 1775 East Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard, Colorado Springs.

During the afternoon session, Commissioners asked wildlife staff to present several changes to Colorado’s turkey hunting regulations at the November meeting, when turkey license numbers and other regulatory changes will be set.

Colorado’s turkey restoration program is one of the most successful species conservation programs in state history. However, in some places where turkeys are abundant, scarce food resources prompt large flocks to congregate on cattle ranches, farms and residential areas in late winter. Large numbers of turkeys can consume or contaminate significant amounts of silage, hay or other feed a landowner has reserved for livestock and can cause conflicts in settled residential areas.

To address the issue, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is proposing to enlist hunters to help manage turkeys on private lands. One recommendation is to create a new late season targeting hen turkeys in specific eastern Colorado locations where conflicts occur. Another recommendation is to offer unlimited licenses for either sex for private lands only in Game Management Units 101 and 102 in Yuma County during the regular fall season. The licenses would be available for purchase over the counter so hunters can obtain one when conflict is happening. Commissioners will also be asked to approve increasing the existing bag limit of two hen turkeys per year if the new late seasons are approved.

In other action, the Commission unanimously approved raising the mountain lion harvest limit for the 2011-2012 seasons by 26 cats to 618, an increase of about 4 percent statewide. Commissioners also asked staff to return with information and concerns about the use of electronic calls as an aid to taking mountain lions, a change that has been requested in a citizens’ petition.

Earlier in the day, Commissioners directed staff to continue to explore what kinds of environmental protections would be needed to develop oil and gas at St. Vrain State Park while protecting wildlife and recreational resources. High Plains Region Manager Heather Dugan gave the commissioners a brief overview of St. Vrain State Park, which is bisected by the St. Vrain River and is surrounded by residential areas, industrial development, Interstate 25 and Colorado Highway 119.

Since the agency owns the mineral rights beneath 439 acres of the park, she said the agency has a great deal of leverage in controlling when, where and how activity would occur. Dugan said that staff had already decided that development would be limited to two well pads on the northern and southern margins of the park and that environmental protections would meet or exceed those required by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Any development would require baseline water sampling and ongoing monitoring, she said.

Staff would take special care to protect an on-site heron rookery and habitat used by bald eagles as well as manage activity to minimize impacts to the park’s 140,000 annual visitors.

Commissioners also received an update on the transition of Bonny Reservoir State Park to a State Wildlife Area following the draining of the impoundment this fall to resolve a dispute with Kansas over the Republican River Compact.  Southeast Region Manager John Geerdes told Commissioners that a group of concerned citizens had requested a meeting next week to discuss last-ditch efforts to avoid draining the lake.  Colorado Parks and Wildlife continues to prepare for the property for the transition slated for October 1st.

Geerdes said that starting next week, park campgrounds which are typically closed for the winter season would begin closing permanently.  Staff will also mothball the park’s visitor center pending a decision on the future of the structure and will begin relocating heavy equipment, shelters, picnic tables and similar amenities to other state parks and wildlife areas with critical needs.

In other business, Commissioners renamed a portion of the Rio Grande State Wildlife Area for two leaders in the local water community. The Shriver-Wright SWA, created to honor of Doug Shriver and Ray Wright, is comprised of the portion of the Rio Grande SWA that lies west of Rio Grande County Road 3. A watchable wildlife trail is planned for the parcel.

On Friday, Commissioners will receive updates on the progress of the merger between Colorado State Parks and the Division of Wildlife into Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

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.

The Commission meets monthly and travels to communities around the state to facilitate public participation in its processes. During the remainder of 2011, the Board will travel to Steamboat Springs in October, Burlington in November and Fort Collins in December.

The complete agenda for the September Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting can be found on the Commission web page at: 
http://wildlife.state.co.us/ParksWildlifeCommission/Archives/2011/Pages/Sept152011.aspx

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