Colorado & NM officials to meet & discuss CWD

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2-state wildlife meeting a first.

Alamosa Valley Courier

Oct 11 2001 12:00AM  By    

ANTONITO - Directors, commissioners and biologists from the Colorado Division of Wildlife and New Mexico Game and Fish will be meeting in Antonito this Friday to discuss chronic wasting disease, whirling disease and shared waterways.
While Colorado has been meeting with Wyoming and Utah for several years to discuss wildlife issues, Colorado and New Mexico just formed their working relationship last year to manage an elk herd that migrated between the two states.

Colorado Wildlife Commissioner Olive Valdez organized the effort with New Mexico Game Commissioner Steve Padilla, and now the states have expanded their relationship to also cooperate on other wildlife resources.

"We made an agreement to work together and cooperate to manage migratory herds because what one state does impacts the other," Valdez said.

"We have much in common, and we share what works and doesn't work. Healthy fish and healthy deer and elk will be a wonderful legacy for future generations."

Chronic wasting disease is a neurological disease found in wild deer and elk.

It had been confined to herds in northeast Colorado, southeastern Wyoming and extreme northwestern Nebraska, but a captive elk at an alternative livestock ranch near Del Norte in the San Luis Valley was recently found to have the disease.

Captive elk from the game ranch that tested positive for chronic wasting disease were shipped to other states, including New Mexico, before the infected animal was discovered.

"We have to get on top of this immediately," said Valdez, a San Luis Valley rancher.

Padilla said communication between the two states has been invaluable.

"Olive set up the meeting so we can work on things together and don't have to reinvent the wheel. Colorado is way ahead of New Mexico on chronic wasting disease, and it's going to be extremely valuable to us in getting a jump on it."

Other issues the two states will discuss are whirling disease and the protection of the Rio Grande cutthroat trout.

Whirling disease, which affects trout and salmon and is caused by a parasite. has been confirmed in 13 of Colorado's 15 major river drainages, including the Colorado, South Platte, Gunnison, Arkansas and Rio Grande.

Valdez brought to the Division's attention potential well sites in the San Luis Valley for new fish hatcheries, which could be used to raise disease-free fish for restocking.

Division Director Russell George will spend Thursday touring those sites.

Another issue Colorado and New Mexico will discuss Friday is the protection of the Rio Grande cutthroat trout. Its range has decreased because of factors affecting its habitat, and extensive recovery efforts are underway.

"The idea is to avoid a federal listing through a proactive agreement between the Colorado Division of Wildlife, New Mexico, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in which steps are taken to help the species thrive," said Eddie Kochman, aquatic manager for Colorado.

George said Valdez and Padilla, who represents northern New Mexico, are "two great links for the two agencies," and communication between the two states helps wildlife.

"One of the best practices we can have as a state wildlife agency is to recognize that wildlife know no artificial boundaries; that's something that humans have contrived," George said.

"To be at our best as wildlife managers, we need to recognize their natural boundaries, and the only way to do that is to cooperate."

At this week's gathering, George and New Mexico Director Larry Bell will meet for the first time.

"I'm grateful to Steve (Padilla) for his quick action in helping to get the two directors together," Valdez said. "We have a true commitment to work together, and without that they're just empty words."
 
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