Gov. Polis, Rep. McCluskie gather in Frisco to sign conservation, search-and-rescue bills

Gov. Jared Polis signs state bills at Frisco Town Hall on June 1, 2022.
Eliza Noe/Summit Daily News

Local search and rescue members, Colorado Parks and Wildlife leaders, and state officials gathered on the lawn in front of Frisco Town Hall to watch four state bills get signed into law. These bills cover conservation efforts and more support for search and rescue teams across the state.

Before signing Senate Bill 168, Gov. Jared Polis said the new law will provide more support to the volunteers who dedicate their time to backcountry search and rescue efforts.

Gov. Jared Polis visited Frisco on Wednesday to sign several wildlife bills.
Eliza Noe/Summit Daily News archive

“We all know that weather can change very rapidly in Summit County and in Colorado, and sometimes that unpredictably can cause risky conditions to appear almost out of nowhere, including avalanches,” Polis said. “This provides our rescuers immunity in civil liability, which is very important because they are out there saving people. The last thing that they should have to worry about is being sued by somebody that might not have been saved at all if they weren’t even there.” 

Polis also signed S.B. 151 for more safe wildlife crossings; S.B. 158, which extends the Species Conservation Trust Fund indefinitely and provides more funding for the Department of Natural Resources; and S.B. 166, which indefinitely extends a provision giving Colorado taxpayers the opportunity to support wildlife in the state on their tax returns. Frisco was one of several of the governor’s stops throughout the state on Wednesday. He also stopped in Vail and Steamboat Springs.

Polis was joined by Rep. Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon, who represents Summit County at the state level. A sponsor of half the bills signed Wednesday, she said that S.B. 151 — which aims to create safe crossings for Colorado wildlife to reduce vehicle-animal collisions on the road — will not only protect wildlife but also reduce traffic backups caused by wrecks. At the wildlife crossing just north of Silverthorne, McCluskie said that there has been a 92% reduction in wildlife collisions since the crossing was built.

Rep. Julie McCluskie presented several state bills on the town of Frisco lawn on June 1, 2022.
Eliza Noe/Summit Daily News

“This suite of bills absolutely captures the essence of what it means to be a Coloradan, protecting our great outdoors, our wildlife and making sure that we’re making investments for the future,” she said. 

Dan Gibbs, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources and former Summit County commissioner, said that wildlife crossings across the state have been successful and further funding could also save drivers from injury and from costs as a result of crashes. 

“A perfect example is just north of Silverthorne. That was an amazing example of the county stepping up. Parks and Wildlife was involved, (and) there’s a private foundation as well,” Gibbs said. “This particular bill will help leverage some of those potential fundings that could be in the future that really help protect wildlife — and people, at the end of the day. In Colorado, nearly 4,000 wildlife-vehicle collisions are reported annually, resulting in injuries and fatalities to people and costing an estimated $80 million.”

Gibbs added that these bills will provide more support to the conservation work already happening across the state. 

“(House Bill 158) is really cool because this bill allocates $6 million to support wildlife conservation for the Platte River Recovery Program, the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program (and) for the San Juan River Recovery Basin Program,” Gibbs said. 

Money from the tax write-offs will go toward wildlife rehabilitation for animals such as bears, elk and mountain lions.

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