Final wolf comment meeting, continued funding questions |

Final wolf comment meeting, continued funding questions

The final wolf plan meeting of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission heard significant public comment. Of the written comments submitted, the majority came from out-of-state residents (49%), followed by 34% from CPW Northeast Region and Southeast Region, and 17% from CPW Northwest and Southwest regions. Of the self-selected draft plan topics, the fewest number of commenters indicated they were addressing funding concerns. Wolf recovery and phases was the most popular topic, followed by reintroduction methodology and release locations.

Public comments represented the gamut of comments and commenters. Louis Wertz, communications director of the Western Landowners Alliance, a Colorado resident, urged the commission to support the draft plan.

M2101, one of two collared wolves in North Park, has been refitted with a collar. Photo by CPW

“The truth is, though, that there is not much disagreement about how to manage wolves among the vast majority of stakeholders, whose views don’t fall on the loud fringes of our social media discourse. I am here today to ensure that these quiet people are heard. They are interested in practical, efficient, effective no-drama solutions to the challenge of wildlife management and restoration. They are non-ideological about wolves, cattle, sheep or goldfish, for that matter. They want CPW to implement tried and tested solutions when those are available, rather than spend the public’s money conducting grand experiments or waging endless court battles.”

The commission voted not to require veterinary records to validate decreased pregnancy rates due to wolves as an indirect loss, and to compensate the losses of yearling cattle on a two tier model paying 1:1.25 if conflict minimization tools are used and at fair market value otherwise (CPW staff recommendation was compensation on fair market value without tiers.). Commissioners also raised the cap for livestock losses from $8,000 to $15,000.

Though the commissioners removed language from the plan that would have allowed wolf hunting at a set population size, but agreed to a plan that, at some point, may include hunting only if wolves are no longer legally classified as threatened and endangered.


While the commission hammers out reintroduction, CPW staff was able to collar two wolves in North Park on Feb. 2. The wolf referred to as Male 2101 slipped his collar shortly thereafter and he was recaptured and the collar refit. CPW said the collaring operation was made possible partly through residents submitting the wolf sighting form on the agency’s website.

The question of funding still looms large in discussions about wolves in Colorado. Colorado Parks and Wildlife utilizes multiple funding sources to manage the state’s 961 species, with the lion’s share of funds, 53%, coming from the sale of licenses and passes, known as Wildlife Cash. In fiscal year 2021-22, the agency’s total budget of $341 million was comprised also of federal grants (14%), GOCO (11%), lottery proceeds (8%), other revenue and donations (5%), registrations (3%), general fund (3%), severance tax (2%), and state and local grants (1%).

After 18 months of Stakeholder Advisory Group discussions, it was recommended that an appropriation be the funding source, rather than wildlife cash. This is due, in part to the number of hunting licenses requiring adjustment to accommodate a new predator on the landscape, Additionally, the largest revenue source of wildlife cash is non-resident elk hunting. With the ungulates at the top of wolves’ preferred prey, the business model can be complicated.

Initial wolf reintroduction expenses were originally estimates by Department of Natural Resources staff. The estimated cost in 2022-23 totaled $457,798 and jumped to $818,427 in 2023-24, the “paws on the ground” year. The estimated cost forecast included expenses through 2029 and the estimated total is about $5.7 million.

According to a report by two members of the Stakeholder Advisory Group, changes including the North Park wolf pack, the uptick in wolf sighting investigations, known game damage, two hirings, existing staff time, a federal relisting, a 10(J) NEPA process and, they said, with some 20/20 hindsight, Jennifer Burbey and Renee Deal set out to dial in the estimates. Their estimate for 2022-23 is $4.1 million.

In the SAG Report on Funding, June 2022, SAG members expressed concern that the ongoing costs of the wolf restoration and management program have not been fully anticipated by the fiscal note supporting CRS 33-2-105.8 in SB21-105, and that funding to address these costs has not been fully identified.

“Growth in future annual funding needs should be anticipated due to growth in the wolf management program. The SAG recommends that opportunities for private donations be actively marketed through a communications campaign; that a full list of potential public and private funding sources that can be used for wolf restoration and management, along with their restrictions, be documented and maintained; and that funding sources that cannot be used for wolf restoration and management also be clearly communicated. To support and sustain a successful wolf restoration and management plan that maximizes positive benefits and minimizes and mitigates negative impacts, the SAG urges full funding for the program. Specifically, the SAG recommends: Annual Appropriations.”

The preliminary estimate offered in the report is an amount of up to $3 million annually for funding of directly related expenses, “potentially be more when considering adjacent expenses that are indirectly or partially related to wolf restoration and management, for example research and communications.”

When Colorado voters narrowly passed the proposition, the Blue Book Estimate of Fiscal Impact for Proposition 114 “increases state spending by approximately $300,000 in state budget year 2021-22 and $500,000 in state budget year 2022-23 for public outreach and development of a gray wolf reintroduction plan. Beginning in  state budget year 2023-24, spending will increase to about $800,000 per year for the implementation of the wolf reintroduction plan.”

It was originally thought the costs would be shouldered by hunting and fishing license fees or appropriations made by the legislature, which is ultimately what has been recommended.

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