Silt foundation to receive $3,000; citizen committee had advised $500 grant
A Western Slope wildlife foundation that rehabilitates injured or orphaned animals, including many from the Aspen area, was awarded $3,000 on Tuesday from Pitkin County’s Healthy Community Fund.
The county’s citizen grant review committee had recommended Silt-based Pauline S. Schneegas Wildlife Foundation receive $500 after it had requested $5,000 to help fund 2013 operations.
The foundation appealed the committee’s decision, and the county commissioners bumped the recommended amount up, with Commissioner Rachel Richards saying she had “a hard time believing $500 could help rehab even one animal.”
Ashley Connolly, a member of the review committee, said the $500 amount — which is what Pitkin County awarded the center for 2012, after granting it $2,500 the previous year — stemmed from concern by some in the group over whether Colorado Parks and Wildlife supports Schneegas.
A state wildlife spokesman told the Aspen Daily News in 2010 that the agency backed the center’s goals — many animals, including orphaned bear cubs, would be put down without Schneegas, he said — but added that there was no extra funding to aid its operations.
Another review committee member, Doris Downey, said another issue was the center’s lack of fundraising partnerships with other groups.
“Our bigger concern was their financial liability and ability to raise money from other groups,” she said.
Commissioner Rob Ittner said he felt those were valid concerns, as did Commissioner George Newman. They both supported giving Schneegas $2,500.
But Commissioner Jack Hatfield said he supported a grant in the $3,000 to $5,000 range.
“It’s our food sources that create these problems” for bears, he said.
Commissioner Michael Owsley joined Hatfield and Richards, who said the city of Aspen should also be donating to Schneegas, in supporting the $3,000 annual grant, which will last for three years. The county, however, wants to see the volunteer-run wildlife center improve relations with other groups, including Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and wants to examine its policies on euthanasia and releasing animals into the wild.
Along with the wildlife center, Wilderness Workshop and the Thompson Divide Coalition were also left out of the review committee’s recommendations for funding, which totaled $1.8 million for 68 agencies. Like Schneegas, both groups also appealed to the county board.
The commissioners and committee were wary that the groups were seeking funds for legal defense work, which is outside the scope of the Healthy Community Fund.
But the commissioners reconsidered Wilderness Workshop’s $20,000 request, in particular its air- and water-quality program.
“It’s a program that Pitkin County has funded literally for decades because it primarily benefits citizens of Pitkin County,” wrote Dave Reed of the Wilderness Workshop in the appeal. “The monitoring of air and water quality is the very foundation of all efforts to protect our natural resources and the health of Pitkin County residents.”
Commissioners agreed to fund the full $9,000 that Wilderness Workshop asked for for that part of its overall request.
Richards suggested that the other requests to fund additional goals of Wilderness Workshop and the Thompson Divide Coalition be considered at a later date. The county may decide to dip into its general fund to pay for those efforts, which are aimed at protecting the Thompson Divide area outside Carbondale from oil and gas development.
Commissioners also approved devoting Healthy Community Fund money to whichever agency takes over for The Right Door, the drug- and alcohol counseling service in Aspen that’s closing its doors next month. The group, which could be established by the end of the year, will get $30,000.