Owens remains 'cautiously optimistic' on CWD

Governor said he understands importance of hunting industry in Northwest Colorado

— Gov. Bill Owens said he is "cautiously optimistic" chronic wasting disease has been contained in Northwest Colorado.

Owens stopped in Steamboat Springs for about an hour Monday as part of a three-day tour of the state.

In an impromptu speech and question and answer session to a room filled with community members and local politicians, Owens said it doesn't appear that wasting disease is in a large number of animals on the Western Slope.

"So far we are cautiously optimistic. We haven't found the epidemic level we had feared," he said. "That doesn't mean we are out of the woods."

Owens said he supports the culling effort used to detect the disease, explaining that it helped insure an epidemic was not present. He said he fully understands the economic importance of hunting to the rural portions of Colorado and the risk wasting disease poses.

"We are trying to walk that fine line in doing what is best for the herd and the state of Colorado," Owens said.

He also discussed the drought conditions in Colorado. He said it is the worst drought in recorded history.

"That means we have a lot of challenges," he said.

One of those challenges is water conservation. Owens said agricultural producers use 85 percent of all the water in Colorado. People watering lawns use 7 percent.

"We need to do a better job of management," he said.

Colorado is the only state in the continental U.S. that doesn't depend on water flowing from other states. Owens said he supports more storage of water to ensure enough is available for the state.

Owens touched on the nation's recession and how it has affected Colorado, too. He explained that Colorado showed signs of a recession two months after the rest of the nation. Now that the economy is starting to rebound slightly, Owens said the same type of delay is expected.

"We are a little slower coming out of it," he said.

He said things are beginning to change, noting that unemployment has decreased for two consecutive months throughout the state.

Also on Monday, Owens signed a bill sponsored by Sen. Jack Taylor that allows Coloradans to donate to the U.S. Olympic Team on state tax forms.

Olympians Gary Crawford, Clint Jones and Todd Wilson joined the governor for the signing.

Owens also signed a proclamation that made Steamboat Springs the state capital for one hour from 1:45 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. The governor presented the proclamation to City Council President Kathy Connell.

Owens takes a tour of Colorado every year, and drove from Fort Collins on Monday morning to Steamboat Springs. He then traveled to Craig, where he purchased a hunting license.

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