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for people who care about the West

See the influences behind Colorado’s wildlife commission

A powerful governing board gives agricultural interests the loudest voice.


Earlier this year, Colorado’s Senate denied James Spehar a seat on the state Parks and Wildlife Commission after “virtually no discussion,” the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported. Though groups like Colorado’s Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited had supported Spehar, the Colorado Farm Bureau was openly against his appointment. “There were several groups that were opposed to his position,” Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, said. “They said he was pretty weak on property rights and other issues.”


That rare dismissal of a candidate to Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s governing board sheds light on how the current powers-that-be manage to ensure that the wildlife commission favors ranching and farming interests over conservation priorities.

Today, only 10 of 11 positions are currently filled on Colorado’s wildlife commission, a powerful governing board that steers wildlife management policy decisions. Commissioners are appointed by the governor and approved by the Colorado Senate. Even though respective interests are each limited to a certain number of seats, at-large members with agricultural ties currently give that sector an out-sized influence. After the Colorado Division of Wildlife merged with State Parks in 2011, two distinct commissions — 14 positions total — were consolidated into one commission meant to balance the needs of wildlife and recreation in the state. Instead, the membership shows that agriculture interests have the loudest voice.

HUNTING-OUTFITTER TIES (3 required; one must be an outfitter)

Marie Haskett
Owner of JML Outfitters in Meeker, Colorado. 

John V. Howard
Former volunteer with the National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Alexander Zipp
Fly-shop owner in Pueblo, Colorado.


Robert William Bray
Owns and operates a cattle and sheep ranch in the San Juan Mountains near Redvale, Colorado, and is a member of the Colorado Wool Growers Association and the Colorado Farm Bureau.

Dale E. Pizel
Manager of a ranch near Creede, Colorado. (At-large member.)

James Vigil
Former Las Animas County commissioner who runs a family farm near Trinidad, Colorado.

Robert “Dean” Wingfield
Current Yuma County commissioner who runs a dryland farming operation near Vernon, Colorado.

RECREATION-CONSERVATION TIES (Of the three recreationalist members called for  on the board, one is to be from a nonprofit,  nonconsumptive wildlife organization)

Carrie Besnette Hauser
President of Colorado Mountain College, with ties to the Metro Denver Sports Commission and the Olympic Games.

Michelle Zimmerman
Has worked in the renewable energy sector and in land conservation  for the past 17 years.


Marvin McDaniel
Currently serves as the chief administrative officer at Xcel Energy.

McDaniel is one of two at-large board members.

The commission also includes these nonvoting members:

Don Brown
Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture.

Bob Randall
Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources.

Bob Broscheid 
Director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Paige Blankenbuehler is an assistant editor for High Country News. [email protected]