My Offer to Sierra Club & Defenders of Wildlife on the Mexican Grey Wolf

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This is an excerpt from my comments as a Commissioner, but only for myself, at the Colorado Parks & Wildlife Commission March 9, 2016.  My offer to Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife remains open and unresponded to since I made it in the January CPW Meeting.

Mr. Chairman and with some trepidation I want to briefly respond to a host of press reports, social media commentary, and email traffic that I was sent after our last meeting regarding the possible introduction of the “Lobo” or Mexican Grey Wolf to Colorado. I also had an opportunity to speak with both Defenders of Wildlife and Sierra Club after our last meeting in the hall and I like to think I am a good client to Counselor Monahan.  So, I want the record to reflect those brief conversations.

I told both Defenders of Wildlife and Sierra Club that I appreciated their attending and their polite and professional conduct.  And I would say the same about the Cattlemen’s Association, Wool Growers, and others. Here I also want to pay tribute to Staff and the State Patrol for the smooth handling of such a big meeting and for taking care of all of us and the public. I thought it was great to have that much public engagement.  Lastly Mr. Chairman I want to pay tribute to your admirable handling of the meeting, including the single unprofessional moment which you handled with great aplomb. I look forward to the rest of your Chairmanship.

I also told the two environmental groups that I would be happy to help them in Southern Colorado. That I believed they had a lot of spade work to do.  What did I mean by that?  I’ve given some thought to how to say this precisely.  And then I remembered a quote that with your indulgence, Mr. Chairman, I would like to read.  I think it sums up my thoughts more eloquently and precisely than I ever could.

For those of you younger than me, you may not recognize Ernie Pyle and his book, Brave Men.  Ernie Pyle was the greatest American combat correspondent of WW II.  If I tear up, Mr. Chairman, it is only because when I read Pyle I always remember he was killed on Okinawa in the very last days of the war with almost the last bullet.

And that is how I was first introduced to Sergeant Frank (“Buck”) Eversole, one of the old-timers.  He shook hands sort of timidly and said, “Pleased to meet you,” and then didn’t say any more. I could tell by his eyes, and by his slow, courteous speech when he did talk, that he was a Westerner.  Conversation with him was rather hard, but I didn’t mind his reticence, for I know Westerners like to size people up first.  The sergeant wore a brown stocking cap on the back of his head.  His eyes were the piercing kind.  I noticed his hands too – they were outdoor hands, strong and rough.

 

Late in the afternoon I came past his foxhole again, and we sat and talked a little while alone.  We didn’t talk about the war, but mainly about our West, and just sat and made figures on the ground with sticks as we talked.  We got started that way, and in the days that followed I came to know him well.  He was to me, and to all those with whom he served, one of the great men of the war.

Now, Mr. Chairman, I like to think even after the huge population growth on the Front Range of Colorado that Ernie Pyle’s description of a Westerner still applies statewide.  But, I am certain it still applies in Southern Colorado where I am fortunate to visit several times a year.  And what I believe Sierra Club and Defenders need to do is what Pyle did.  Not to go straight down to Southern Colorado with facts and figures about how wolves are great in Yellowstone. But to sit on the edge of the foxhole drawing with sticks in the sand getting to know Southern Coloradans and letting them get to know the environmental groups. Do the spade work. Because that is the only way I can see support for the Lobo arising in Southern Colorado amongst mayors, county commissioners, and the public.

Now folks might say that’s an impossible task. But, I’ll close with a story about a great Coloradan who was not afraid of impossible tasks. Both Counselor Monahan and I studied at the University of Colorado Law under David Getches.  When Getches taught us Indian law or as we say now, Native American law, he was also the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.  So, we had to take the course at 8 pm at night after he had finished more than a full days work.

It was the greatest course of my college career.  Dean Getches, who died way too early, as a young man left a lucrative legal career to work for Native Americans and their treaty rights. When he started treaties with the tribes were a quaint anachronism. A piece of history, but no more.  But he plugged away for years in and out of court, cajoling, persuading, earning respect broadly, and pushing until the dominant culture realized the error of its ways. When he finished those treaties had the full force of our Constitution.

He did the spade work.

And surely the cause of the Lobo is an easier task than that.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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