Residents are unhappy with Division of Wildlife Resources policies
Phil Douglass recently spent an entire weekend sifting through more than 50 written comments, some typed and several paragraphs long, from residents who attended the Division of Wildlife Resources’ open house last month.
Douglass, the northern region wildlife conservation outreach manager with the Division of Wildlife Resources, categorized the comments and compiled them into a one-page summary report to share with his colleagues and The Park Record.
Nearly 30 percent of the comments expressed an opposition to several wildlife management practices in western Summit County. Topics included:
- Decreasing wildlife highway mortalities: 21 percent
- Opposition to relocations of moose and elk: 19 percent
- Lack of municipal planning/preserving wildlife values: 14 percent
- More education and learning to live with wildlife: 11 percent:
- Not enough one-on-one opportunities during the open house: 5 percent
- Wildlife causing damage on private property: 2 percent
Douglass said it is evident the public "doesn’t understand the principles and constraints that we, as wildlife managers, have to work under."
"It was really evident that the need is there to continue educating people about wildlife," Douglass said. "A lot of folks have expressed concern about the way that wildlife is managed and one of the comments that I heard was we are saying this is the way its always been done and they don’t like it, but the fact is there are laws that have been built on that foundation.
"It is now our opportunity to educate people what the principles and basics are of wildlife management," Douglass said.
More than 150 people attended the open house at the Sheldon Richins Building on Jan. 27 and nearly 130 comments were submitted. However, only 50 were included in the summary. More than 20 DWR staff members joined representatives from Wild Aware Utah at the open house to discuss issues such as the agency’s policies on euthanasia and relocation after being contacted by dozens of residents.
"They just wanted to ease the tensions because when you are talking face to face you become friends and less hostile," said Jennifer Terry, a Jeremy Ranch resident and member of the grassroots organization Save People Save Wildlife, of the open house. "I don’t want to be hostile, but I do want change.
"I think it’s time for some reform of the DWR," Terry said. "I want to go after the outdated policies and the policy makers that govern the DWR. I feel now that the DWR is "just doing their job" and are doing it to the existing, extremely outdated policy. Their policies are flawed and so incredibly ignorant."
But according to Douglass, people just need to learn to appreciate, understand and tolerate wildlife management practices,
"I see that as one of the things that we came away from the meeting with," he said.
Douglass acknowledged that residents were concerned that DWR would not act on their input, adding he has personally reached out to several attendees and the comments did not "fall on deaf ears."
"I want them to know that we not only read everyone’s comments, but we put them into an internal document so every single comment we have captured," Douglass said. "I know people were concerned nothing will be done with them and we are doing our best to let people know we captured all of those and we are addressing the ones we can."
Douglass reiterated that advocates can also take their concerns to the Division of Wildlife Board and Regional Council that is responsible for Summit County. He said that is the body that implements new policies.
According to the report, some additional steps DWR is considering include: preparing fact sheets for identified issues, continued support and expansion of Wild Aware Utah Educational materials and programs, hosting Wildlife Research Education series in the Park City-area, working with Utah Department of Transportation to reduce highway collisions with wildlife and working with local citizens and organizations to preserve wildlife populations and habitats.
"Some people feel we are not being transparent, but we have nothing to hide," Douglass said. "We are happy to explain these processes. I think I understand where that comes from though and that’s because they are not aware of these things and feel we are automatically trying to hide from them and that is just not the truth. We are happy to explain it all."
Douglass said DWR will continue to increase its educational efforts and may host more open houses in the future, however, nothing has been scheduled as of yet.
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