Two CO wolf reintroduction bills that need our support. Reach the Colorado House below.
Like it or not, gray wolves are set to be reintroduced to Colorado’s Western Slope before the year is out.
In an effort to make sure that greater flexibility is included in the state’s management plan and that livestock owners are somewhat protected from predation, several state legislators have taken action.
Two wolf management bills — SB23-256 and SB23-255 — have been introduced in the Colorado Senate. The bills, in part, would ensure management decisions fall to the state rather than the federal government, uphold the original terms of Proposition 114, and appropriate funds for livestock owner compensation for wolf-caused losses.
Again, whether you’re for or against wolves on the landscape, these are bills that need our support to make sure the predators aren’t left to run rampant.
In November 2020, Colorado voters narrowly approved Proposition 114. Many hunters and nearly every affected county in the state voted against it because of the risk that reintroduction posed to ungulate populations. Livestock owners weren’t too hot for it either.
The proposition directed the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission (CPWC) to develop a plan to reintroduce and manage gray wolves in the state by 2023. Funds for conflict mitigation and compensation were also part of the deal.
At that time, wolves were classified as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but have been relisted after a court order overturned a prior ruling in February 2022. That's in itself is a huge issue (besides of course ballot box biology).
Wolf reintroduction is still slated to happen by December 31, 2023, but unless a 10(j) waiver is granted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), management will not fall under the purview of the state. Instead, the USFWS would continue to be in charge, and wolves would remain under Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections.
The 10(j) waiver is a provision of the ESA that, in this case, would classify the wolves as a “nonessential experimental population” leaving the door open for a much more flexible active wolf management plan in the future.
According to a letter sent to the Colorado General Assembly and Department of Natural Resources by the Colorado Wildlife Conservation Project, “when an endangered species is reintroduced into an area under the 10(j) rule, the prohibitions and consultation requirements that exist for that species under the ESA are relaxed, allowing for greater management of the population by the state, as well as providing more nuanced and flexible management prescriptions.”
Other states, like New Mexico and Arizona, are watching the 10(j) ruling closely since Colorado’s reintroduction could potentially negatively impact their own Mexican Wolf recovery efforts through hybridization.
If expedited, the 10(j) waiver could be approved as early as December 15, which is cutting it uncomfortably close to the reintroduction date.
In response to this possibility, SB23-256 and SB23-255 would (1) mandate a 10(j) waiver upholding the original terms of Proposition 114 before any paws hit the ground and (2) appropriate funds for livestock owner compensation for wolf-caused injury and losses.
Let the Colorado legislators know that, as sportsmen and women, you support the approval of SB23-256 and SB23-255 and ask them to do the same.
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