DENVER (AP) – U.S. Forest Service regional forester Rick Cables has been named the director of the newly created Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, the state Department of Natural Resources announced Monday.
Cables will begin overseeing the new division and its 880 employees in July, when a merger between the Colorado Division of Wildlife and Colorado State Parks takes effect, the department said. Gov. John Hickenlooper approved the merger to save an estimated $3 million to $4 million.
Cables, a Pueblo native who has spent his entire professional career with the Forest Service, has been regional forester for the Rocky Mountain region since 2001.
He said his departure would allow someone to step in with “fresh eyes,” but he also said the new position offered a challenging opportunity to lead, conserve wildlife and build on the heritage associated with state parks.
“It just sounds like a dream job,” he said.
Other finalists for the post were Division of Wildlife Director Tom Remington and Tom Morrissey, state trails program manager for State Parks. State Parks Director Dean Winstanley chose not to apply.
Candidates interviewed with a board overseeing the new parks and wildlife division, and Cables was chosen with the consent of Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Mike King.
Cables and King have worked together before on issues including Colorado’s proposed policy for managing roadless areas. He and his staff also reached agreements with Denver Water and Vail Resorts Inc. to share costs of projects to protect and restore watersheds.
In more than 35 years with the Forest Service, Cables also has served as supervisor of the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire and Maine, forest supervisor of the Pike and San Isabel National Forests and Comanche and Cimarron National Grasslands in Colorado and Kansas, and regional forester of the Alaska region.
The wildlife division and state parks had been joined before but they were separated in 1972. The merger approved by Hickenlooper prompted State Parks Board member Laurie Matthews, a former director of State Parks, to resign. She said she was concerned the focus on parks would be diminished.
Cables said his first task will be consummating the merger, studying budgets and crafting a new path forward.
Cables figures to work with many of the same people, government leaders, interest groups and non-governmental organizations he works with today. “I’m just going to be doing it with a different chair and a different mission,” he said.
– By Catherine Tsai, AP Writer
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)