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Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission appointee responds to Grand County criticisms

Amy Golden
SkyHi News

 

 

GRANBY — Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission appointee James Tutchton said Friday that he doesn’t think his views are at odds with hunting or the goals of the state office.

He was defending himself after the board of commissioners in Grand County voted last month to sign a letter to leaders in the Colorado Senate opposing his confirmation to the 11-person commission, saying Tutchton’s views are at odds with the goals and values of Parks and Wildlife and stating that he opposes the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.

Tutchton — who was appointed last year by Gov. Jared Polis as the outdoor recreation, parks utilization and nonconsumptive wildlife representative for the state commission — said he does support the model but explained that there have been times he has advocated against it.



“I’m just trying to hold us to the highest possible ethical standard,” Tutchton said. “I support it, but people interpret it differently.”

In addition to his role on the commission, Tutchton is the preserve manager for the Southern Plains Land Trust in Bent County and has a background as a litigator for WildEarth Guardians, which has frequently tussled in court with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.



Though some have found his approach toward animal conservation to be in opposition to sportspeople, he emphasized that he has no animosity toward hunting.

“I’m not anti-hunting. I used to be a hunter,” Tutchton said. “I don’t hunt anymore because I made a personal decision to not eat meat.”

He said he thinks Parks and Wildlife should expand its focused beyond hunting, saying the organization needs to broaden its representation to include the opinions of people with other types of wildlife interests.

James Tutchton

His does support wolf reintroduction.

“I am pro-wolf. They got me there,” Tutchton said. “But so are a majority of Coloradans. I think the majority of Coloradans should be represented on the (Parks and Wildlife) commission.”

November’s wolf reintroduction ballot measure was passed in Colorado with 50.9% of voters saying “yes.” In Summit County, 54.4% of voters supported the measure.

The ballot measure directs Parks and Wildlife to develop a plan and begin reintroducing wolves in Colorado by 2023. Tutchton said he wants to accelerate that timeline.

“It can be an expeditious or lackadaisical timeline,” he said. “I don’t want to skip a step, but I would like to get moving.”

Tutchton believes that a number of Coloradans lack trust in Parks and Wildlife, and he wants to show a good-faith effort to carry out voters’ wishes as quickly as possible while ensuring everyone has a voice in the process.

He added that the state will have more control over the reintroduction process as long as federal wolf protections are not in place. The Trump administration pulled gray wolves off the federal endangered species list earlier this year, but Tutchton thinks upcoming litigation could put wolves back on the list.

Tutchton said speeding up the timeline would ensure state control. He pointed out that Polis, the person who appointed him to the position, also expressed interest in a faster process.

Tutchton emphasized that his viewpoints aren’t meant to be antagonistic toward Parks and Wildlife or hunters, adding that his seat on the Parks and Wildlife commission is the only one allocated to a nonconsumptive wildlife organization, meaning his views are often outnumbered 10 to one. But he said opinions like his still deserve a seat at the table.

“We need to broaden (Parks and Wildlife) to give people with different views on wildlife — who are in the majority — a seat at the table, but I don’t want to hurt the hunters,” Tutchton said.


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