Carrie Besnette Hauser is the 2021-22 Chair of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission.



Coloradans love being outdoors, whether stargazing, birdwatching, or snowshoeing. We talk to strangers on hiking trails, swapping stories about the bald eagle or elk that was just spotted or the fish in the lake up ahead.

Such experiences are common when people leave their daily stresses behind and escape to enjoy the natural resources managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). They neutralize the things that can divide us – as urbanites or rural residents, as multi-generation or newer Coloradans, as members of various political parties. And, when our differences melt away, our shared appreciation of our state’s magnificent landscapes and countless species of plants and wildlife comes into focus.

CPW strives to connect people to the outdoors and its successes are due, in part, to the 13-member Commission that sets policy to fulfill CPW’s mission: “to perpetuate the wildlife resources of the state, to provide a quality state parks system, and to provide enjoyable and sustainable outdoor recreation opportunities that educate and inspire current and future generations to serve as active stewards of Colorado’s natural resources.”

Over the past several years, the CPW Commission has strived to bridge many contentious topics, including the reintroduction and management of gray wolves.

Whatever your position on this issue, the results of a state ballot measure required the Commission and a dedicated team of CPW personnel to employ every possible means to engage and ensure all voices were solicited and heard as a wolf plan was developed over the past two years.

The final Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan is the result of unprecedented planning, valuable input by stakeholder and expert working groups, and robust public participation ultimately totaling 4,000 written comments and hundreds made by people testifying in person. The plan is better because of this engagement.

The final plan is also better because Colorado law requires the voting members of the Commission to come from a well-balanced cross section of interests in the state. These gubernatorial appointees include: three sportspersons who purchase hunting or fishing licenses – one of which must be an outfitter; three agricultural producers; three persons who engage in outdoor recreation and utilize parks resources including one who represents a nonprofit organization supporting the conservation of Colorado’s wildlife and habitat; and two at-large representatives. The Commission must also be politically balanced and include four residents of the western slope. The Commissioner of Agriculture and Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources are also nonvoting members.

In May, the Commission passed the wolf plan unanimously, a result that seemed improbable when Proposition 114 passed narrowly in 2020. The approaches we employed to develop the plan can serve as a model for how to build consensus, reach compromise, and forge solutions around divisive issues for all residents and regions of the state.

Another CPW success story rooted in compromise is the Keep Colorado Wild Pass, which offers a new funding model for Colorado’s state parks and will help CPW keep pace with increased park usage. Beginning this year, Coloradans began seeing the $29 pass added to their vehicle registration through the Division of Motor Vehicles. Paying the optional fee gives purchasers access to state parks and the added benefit of supporting our public lands, wildlife and fragile habitats in a meaningful way.

Winding down my final term on the Commission, I’m most grateful to my fellow Commissioners. Building relationships and finding common ground has not always been easy. And we’ve done this time and time again. From an unanimously supported wolf plan which balanced the success of a species with the livelihoods of our western slope ranchers and agricultural producers, to collaborating with the Department of Natural Resources to name a new CPW Director, to supporting over 1,000 employees who kept pace during historic times and rose to the occasion including: park rangers who have responded to a record number of recent water-related fatalities, biologists monitoring our big game herds, wildlife officers helping spread Bear Aware messages to reduce wildlife conflicts, Aquatic Nuisance Species inspectors fighting to keep invasive mussels out of Colorado’s waterways, budget and policy analysts, interpretive educators, and many more.

It is this team of talented CPW professionals – valued and celebrated by a diverse and dedicated Commission – that creates the conditions for us to set aside our differences, nurture our souls and replenish our spirits in Colorado’s great outdoors.

For more information on Colorado Parks and Wildlife, visit
by Carrie Besnette Hauser

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