by Marissa Lorenz
It has turned out to be a surprisingly busy summer for many in the area and especially so for Jeromy Huntington, who was named Area Wildlife Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) in Hot Sulphur Springs in August.
Those who regularly take advantage of Grand County’s outdoor resources may already be familiar with Huntington, who first moved to the area with his family in 2013 to serve as the Granby district wildlife manager. He has since become a face for the local agency, interacting with landowners, visitors, hunters, fishers, and other outdoor recreationists. But the change in position brings significant changes to his responsibilities as well.
“Moving from a district position in Granby to overseeing everything wildlife related in Grand and Summit Counties means needing a much broader perspective,” explains Huntington, who now oversees an entire staff, consisting of six district wildlife managers, wildlife biologists and technicians, administrative support, customer service representatives, and more.
“Jeromy has distinguished himself in his collaborative work with CPW’s federal and local partners during his time in the Granby district,” said JT Romatzke, Northwest Regional Manager. “We’re excited for him
to take that collaborative spirit to the next level while also sharing his passion for wildlife with the employees he’ll be supervising in the new position. There’s an amazing team in place in that area, and I know they’re excited for Jeromy to lead them forward.”
The Hot Sulphur-based team oversees wildlife management operations of both large and small animals, from herds of big game, such as elk, deer, pronghorn, and moose, to more “rare critters,” like pika and boreal toads. They issue hunting and fishing licenses, educating and monitoring resource users. They are law enforcement officers, managing the area’s state wildlife areas, such as the Byers Canyon Rifle Range, the Windy Gap Wildlife Viewing Area, the Blue River and Kemp-Breeze fishing accesses. They provide property and habitat work, partnering with landowners, ski resorts, and the US Forest Service. They even manage conservation easements, like the one on Granby Ranch.
Growth behind challenges and goals
Now responsible to and for all of that in most of Middle Park, Huntington is looking ahead with that wider perspective, identifying the needs and challenges that are facing state lands and the area office.
One of the greatest challenges he describes is the effort to find balance between outdoor recreation, population growth in Colorado, and managing wildlife.
“For years, the main concern in managing wildlife populations was managing winter range,” Huntington details. “Now with people coming to Colorado in record numbers, either to live or visit, we’re seeing an exponential increase of people in the woods.
“In this COVID year, it’s been great to see people out and recreating. But between advancements in technology, like mountain bikes, and the ongoing drive for people to go further and further into the woods, there are fewer and fewer wild places for the critters to go and be,” he continues. “Folks are adventuring further and in greater numbers into areas where animals are calving and fawning. When wildlife are disturbed and need to flee, it takes away from energy reserves and raising their young. That disturbance can impact survival rates.
“It becomes a much greater challenge to bring species back to the area or increase declining population numbers than it is to manage wildlife well now. It’s really increased my awareness of recreational impacts on wildlife outside of historic concerns of the development of winter range.”
In that vein, a primary goal of the new Area Wildlife Manager is to increase awareness and education, especially around such teachings as Leave-No-Trace principles and basic outdoor preparedness.
Huntington and other CPW staff are active in the area schools and outdoor education programs. But, “As a mountain biker,” he half-jokes, “I sometimes just want to put up signs on the trails that read, ‘What’s your Impact?,’ as one way of carrying the message–we need to take care of our lands and the wildlife’s habitat.”
He notes that first responders receive more and more calls about confrontations with moose or bear. And that visitors will be caught out in the snow in sneakers or without other proper outerwear.
A further goal identified by Huntington is to advocate for the development of thoughtful recreation and land management as an economic driver in the region. “It’s critical to get more young people and more diverse groups interested in hunting and fishing and care of wildlife and public lands. There are lots of positives that wildlife and wildlife-related activities, such as hunting and fishing, bring to the community.
“Many of Colorado’s mountain areas focus on tourism, and skiing, mountain biking, and trails are a big
draw in Grand and Summit counties,” he notes. “But we should be mindful of wildlife-related tourism and the fact that it can offer a significant economic and developmental benefit to our community.
“There’s something particularly special about Grand County and our wildlife resources,” Huntington reminds.
“Sometimes when we talk about land use, it sounds like we want to be like other communities. But it’s important to offer something unique. And our wildlife resource is tremendous in Grand County and Middle Park.”
Huntington replaces Lyle Sidener, who retired earlier this year after 30 years with the agency, including the last 15 as area wildlife manager in Hot Sulphur Springs.
“I feel blessed to have the opportunity to serve this amazing area of the state and all of its residents and visitors,” Huntington summarizes.
“This isn’t just a job or even a career. For me, this is me enjoying the Colorado outdoor lifestyle every day. I’m so thankful for the people along the way who have guided me on the journey to this point.”
For more information on Colorado Parks and Wildlife, wildlife management plans, and outdoor recreation opportunities, go to cpw. state.co.us or call the Hot Sulphur area office at (970) 725-6200