Gray Wolves

The Colorado Parks and Conservation Commission unanimously approved the final draft of the agency’s wolf recovery and management plan. This comes after nearly two years of gathering feedback from various stakeholders, including ranchers, scientists, conservationists, wolf experts, and community members. 

 “The plan developed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife is a significant step toward reintroducing gray wolves to Colorado,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. “Through collaboration between state and federal agencies, conservation organizations, and local communities, Colorado’s plan has a clear commitment to wolf recovery while balancing the needs and concerns of all stakeholders. We hope these relationships continue as the state recovers this iconic species later this year.” 

 Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and a commission appointed by the governor were tasked with developing a science-based plan to reintroduce wolves to the western side of the Continental Divide by December 31, 2023, after Colorado voters approved Proposition 114 in 2020. “Humans and wolves have a deep emotional and political history, but I think if we sit down to listen and talk without categorizing each other or making assumptions, we’re not as far apart as we seem,” said Defenders of Wildlife’s Rockies and Plains representative Kaitie Schneider. “We must come together before we can move forward. Our advocates, including myself, are ready to work with the people living and working in the resettlement camps to ensure peaceful coexistence.” 

 CPW’s wolf recovery and management plan outlines a phased approach that begins with the release of 10-15 wolves each winter on public or private lands over the next 3-5 years, for a total of 30-50 wolves recovered from the northern Rocky Mountains. They identified two exclusion zones at least 60 miles from any state or tribal boundary in the core of Colorado’s wolf habitat. A species can be listed as endangered if the state has 50 wolves for four consecutive years and delisted from non-game status if there are 150 wolves for two successive years or 200 wolves at any one time. Although it is statistically rare for ranchers to lose cows to wolves, CPW’s wolf plan creates one of the most generous compensation plans in the country. Ranchers can receive up to $15,000 if a wolf kills a cow on their property. 

Before CPW can know if their plan can be fully implemented, they must obtain a final 10(s) rule from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The public comment period for the draft federal  rule ended last month, and CPW and the Service are fully cooperating to secure a final rule before wolf reintroduction is expected to begin at the end of the year. 

 “Coloradoans voted overwhelmingly to restore the wolf state. Today, we are encouraged by the news that the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission has approved the final draft of the Wolf Recovery and Management Plan, an important step toward respecting the will of the people and restoring gray wolves to Colorado. Although the plan is still to be seen, we hope it will prioritize the conservation of this beautiful species, reflecting scientific evidence and the expertise of wildlife biologists and conservationists who understand the important role wolves play in maintaining healthy ecosystems,” said Leslie Williams and Samantha Attwood, co-founders of the #RelistWolves campaign.

“We look forward to seeing the positive impact of wolf reintroduction on Colorado’s environment, economy, and the future of Colorado’s wildlife.”

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