Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission appointee responds to Grand County criticisms
The controversial appointee to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission doesn’t think his views are at odds with hunting or the goals of the office.
Grand County commissioners voted late last month to sign a letter to leaders in the Colorado Senate opposing James Tutchton’s confirmation to the 11-person commission. Gov. Jared Polis appointed Tutchton as the outdoor recreation, parks utilization and nonconsumptive wildlife representative for CPW last year.
County commissioners felt that Tutchton’s views were at odds with the goals and values of CPW, with the letter stating that Tutchton opposes the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.
Over the phone Friday, Tutchton said he does in fact support the model. He explained that there have been times he has advocated against things that contradict it, but that various understandings of the model are part of the process for wildlife management.
“I’m just trying to hold us to the highest possible ethical standard,” Tutchton said. “I support it, but people interpret it differently.”
While 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 clarified, though, that he thinks CPW should expand its focused beyond hunting. Tutchton said that the organization needs to broaden its representation to include the opinions of people with other types of wildlife interests.
His support for wolf reintroduction is true, however.
“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 CPW commission.”
November’s wolf reintroduction ballot measure was passed in Colorado with 50.9% of voters saying yes.
Tutchton explained that his seat on the CPW commission is the only one allocated to a nonconsumptive wildlife organization. He said this outnumbers his views 10 to one, but opinions like his still deserve a seat at the table.
The ballot measure directs CPW to develop a plan and begin reintroducing wolves in Colorado by 2023. Tutchton explained why he wanted 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 the CPW and he wants to show a good-faith effort to carry out the state’s voter-decided desires as quickly as possible, while still ensuring everyone has a voice in the process.
The appointee added that the state would have more control over the reintroduction process as long as federal wolf protections are not in place. The Donald Trump administration pulled gray wolves off the federal endangered species list earlier this year, but Tutchton believes that upcoming litigation could put wolves back on the list.
Tutchton said speeding up the timeline would ensure state control. He pointed out that Gov. Polis, the person who appointed him to this position, also expressed interest in a faster process.
Tutchton emphasized that his viewpoints on these topics are one of many on wildlife in Colorado but needs to be heard. Most of all, his views aren’t meant to be antagonistic toward CPW or hunters.
“We need to broaden CPW 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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