It’s a win win win: Wolf delisting applauded
With only days before Colorado voters decide whether or not forced wolf reintroduction will happen or not, the Trump Administration and others gathered for the U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt’s announcement that gray wolves have been delisted.
Gray wolves spent nearly 50 years listed under the Endangered Species Act but the management of the populations in the lower 48 states will now fall to the state and tribal wildlife management agencies. Though now successfully recovered, populations will be monitored for five years by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Shawn Martini, Colorado Farm Bureau’s vice president of advocacy, applauds the announcement and said the move proves that the species is thriving in the state, making a forced introduction a reckless use of taxpayer money.
“This announcement directs the states to manage the gray wolf,” Martini said. “Colorado Parks and Wildlife already has a plan in place to manage wolves that migrate into Colorado naturally and have previously determined, four times, that forced reintroduction is not the right decision for our state.”
According to a statement, the USFWS came to its final determination based on the best scientific and commercial data available. This involved in-depth analysis of threats to the species, how they have been alleviated, as well as evidence of state’s and tribe’s continued commitment to the management of healthy wolf populations. Analysis of current and historical distribution of gray wolf populations indicated that the species has exceeded all goals for conservation recovery and is no longer threatened or endangered.
Kaitlynn Glover, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association executive director of natural resources and the Public Lands Council executive director, was on hand for the Interior Department’s announcement and praised the long awaited decision. Glover said the removal of federal protections for the gray wolf from the Endangered Species List is the result of an effort that began nearly 20 years ago. Glover said the announcement means the administration is confident in the recovery of the gray wolf snd agrees that the wolf no longer needs federal protection. Oregon Cattlemen’s Association president and rancher Tom Sharp noted that the effort was a conservation success and an example of how the ESA may be used to recover a species and then return that species to state management. Glover said the ESA is often spoken of as a punitive tool, and while she said that is still true, this delisting teaches the importance of knowing when to remove federal protections, allowing the USFWS to turn their attention to truly imperiled species.
“Our community remains committed to creating a successful balance of management practices so that gray wolves and other large predators that may be protected under the ESA can exist in concert with wildlife and with other livestock,” she said. “This balance is incredibly important and is best achieved at the state level, so today’s announcement is a win, win, win all the way around.”
In a social media post, Colorado First Gentleman Marlon Reis said “a rebounding population of endangered species is no excuse for delisting.” Reis also said he was saddened that the “Trump administration relied on non-scientists to determine this policy change at a time when we should be adding more species for protection under the Endangered Species Act; not fewer.”
The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association said the state’s commitment to preserving wolves through development of management plans and protective laws though residents close to the issue now face Proposition 114, a ballot initiative seeking to introduce wolves into the state. This measure is being pushed by out-of-state activist groups, according to the CCA, and actively disregards the scientific date mentioned above, as well as goes against the recommendations of experts in Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
CCA Executive Vice President Terry Fankhauser said COVID-19 has dramatically impacted the state budget, and management of wolf introduction adds to the state’s already stressed financial situation. CCA also cites the state’s moose herds and the listed Greater Sage Grouse that will be threatened by forced wolf introduction. The state’s agriculture industry, a primary economic driver, contributing billions of dollars annually to the state’s economy, will also be adversely affected. With multiple documented sightings of wolves, as well as a visual sighting of wolf puppies, the state is already home to a functioning pack of wolves that are thriving at their own pace rather than through forced introduction.
CCA president Janie VanWinkle is a Western Slope rancher likely to be personally affected by a forced reintroduction. As a Colorado resident, she said her concerns lie also in the state’s budget, already over $3 million in the red following COVID.
“Proposition 114 is a reckless and expensive assault on Colorado’s economy, wildlife and livestock production, and not to mention an already growing wolf population,” said VanWinkle. “Colorado Parks and Wildlife has an efficient, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-recognized management plan in place, which is actively protecting wolves within the state. For the sake of Colorado’s treasured wildlife, and fragile economy, Coloradans need to vote no on Proposition 114.” ❖
— Gabel is the assistant editor and reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (970) 768-0024.
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