CPW: 10(j) and source location for wolves on track
Reid DeWalt reported to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission for the first time since the final Wolf Restoration Final Plan was approved unanimously.
DeWalt said in terms of the 10(j) rule process, “everything is going as we expect it to be.” DeWalt said CPW has reviewed the draft Environmental Impact Statement and provided comments, along with the other cooperating agencies. He said they expect the record of decision in mid-October.
Once the record of decision and EIS are released, he said there will be a 30-day “cooling off” period without public comment, before the final decision is published around Nov. 15. At that point, he said CPW will know exactly how the 10(j) rule will read in the federal statute and puts them on target for a final rule by Dec. 15.
DeWalt acknowledged the media attention about where CPW will source donor wolves and said one of the first things CPW Director Jeff Davis did was send a letter to the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington to formally request conversations about sourcing wolves. He said CPW heard back from Idaho officials who communicated that they’re not interested in participating, and Montana, which he said is cool to the idea. Oregon and Washington, though, he said are more open to having those conversations. DeWalt said CPW is awaiting Washington’s commission to make a final decision whether they will participate, and CPW should have an answer in a month or so.
“It’s too early to say we have a formal agreement with any of those states but we’re close,” he said.
Director Davis told the commission they should hesitate in contacting the Washington commission as Director Kelly Susewind, he said, is navigating a “complicated situation” that is “super sensitive.” Davis, who worked for Susewind prior to his post at CPW said “lobbying or barraging” the Washington commission to provide donor wolves could potentially make an agreement less likely.
DeWalt said CPW is also in conversations with states to the south, including New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, as well as the Albuquerque office of the Fish and Wildlife Service staff about impacts to the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program and there is great concern that any northern genes will be integrated into the Mexican wolf population.
“We’re working diligently to try to come up with agreements on how we’re going to operate and if wolves expand to those neighboring states and our willingness to bring them back,” he said. “Of course, we’re very willing to bring them back, obviously that will help with our recovery and implementation here in Colorado.”
Staff is currently in discussions about release locations, and he said they’re looking closely at the two northern release areas on the map. The northernmost area includes Glenwood Springs, Vail and Aspen and the second map DeWalt referenced includes Montrose and Gunnison. He said they plan to compose a list of 10 release sites to offer alternative plans based on weather conditions on release dates which will run through March.
Cages, crates, helicopter availability, tranquilizers and other topics are also being discussed by teams of staff, biologists and veterinarians. He said the collars ordered have arrived as well.
He reported that CPW is also working on administrative directives to guide staff how to appropriately deal with conflicts that may arise in the coming months. This document exists for all of the predatory species CPW manages and the document will be finalized prior to release.
WOLVES AND LIVESTOCK
Staff is also working on a memorandum of understanding or MOU with the Colorado Department of Agriculture for management of preventative and less than lethal measures. This will also include educational resources about preventative measures. Educational materials are also being created to help answer the daily media requests.
Another wolf biologist has been added to CPW staff from the Yellowstone area, Brenda Cassidy, who will concentrate on work as a wolf data manager.
At the conclusion of DeWalt’s comments, commission chair Dallas May acknowledged that to put nonlethal tools, like fladry, into use will place a high demand on livestock producers for labor.
“These nonlethal methods aren’t going to be free, they aren’t going to be cheap, there’s going to be a lot of requirement on producers to make sure this is done, and we’ve said it at length, but it behooves everybody to help livestock producers in implementing these nonlethal measures whether that be actual labor or the cost for labor or other organizations that are willing to help,” he said. “We all have an extremely vested interest in making sure that our nonlethal controls are in place. That’s carcass management, fladry, range riding, everything it’s going to take to make this program a success and that’s in the best interest of both the wolf side and the livestock producer side.”
Commissioner Gary Skiba said low stress livestock handling is also part of depredation prevention and said there are a number of entities currently training producers on the methods.