Release the Wolves: Polis tells commission to hurry and get wolves on the ground
When voters were asked to decide whether to forcibly introduce wolves into Colorado, the result margins were the narrowest on the ballot, with only four counties west of the Continental Divide, the area primarily affected, voting yes. Now, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has urged the Colorado Wildlife Commission to ignore the process prescribed in Prop 114 and get wolves on the ground by the middle of next year.
Polis joined the commission meeting Wednesday, Jan. 13 and said he has a strong desire to carry out the will of the voters and introduce wolves to Colorado in a timely fashion. He then challenged the commission to fulfill the effort ahead of schedule.
“I think next year is that sweet spot where you have plenty of time, you get a plan out this fall, you socialize it, we’ll be able to do in-person meetings this fall, the COVID thing will be out so you’ll be able to do listening sessions, there will be comments on the plan, it will be refined, amended probably early the following year,” Polis said. “We can get it done. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has risen to this challenge time and time again.”
Polis went on to say that wolves “basically take care of themselves” and the introduction planning isn’t as difficult as some other species, like the Canadian lynx and black-footed ferret. He also said, the governor of Wyoming is “happy to send us some wolves when we’re ready.”
The average no vote in counties in the area affected was 62 percent, making stakeholder engagement and clear communication even more vital, said Shawn Martini, Colorado Farm Bureau’s vice president of advocacy. Rushing a process that is contentious in the area where the law will have an impact, he said, ought to require adhering to the process prescribed in the proposition language.
“If you look at the language of 114, it says by 2023 as a target date, not a maximum,” Martini said. “He’s trying slight of hand and moving the goal post, saying there’s nothing that says we can’t do it faster… other than good sense and prudence and responsible public policy making.”
WHAT’S THE RUSH
In the commission hearing in which Polis asked the commission to rush introduction of wolves, there were experts who testified that in the five other states that have done wolf planning, it has required a minimum of nearly four years. The language in Prop 144 requires that wolf planning in Colorado be done twice as fast as in other states and Polis’ requests pushes for even more rush.
Thursday morning, Parks and Wildlife officials presented to members of the commission, telling them that wolf planning in Colorado will be an experiment because, as opponents have maintained, Colorado is unlike the Northern Rockies.
Committee chair Marvin McDaniel said Wednesday he spoke for the commission in sharing his excitement to tackle wolf introduction, acknowledging that it’s controversial but it is, he said, the will of the people. McDaniel said he’s going to depend upon the experts within the agency to find the proper timeline for reintroduction.
Commissioner Carrie Hauser asked the governor to work with stakeholders in the affected area, especially given the amount of public comment the commission heard on the topic.
“We want to do this as a state and not have this done to the Western Slope and have this be a division in our state,” Hauser said.
Martini said stakeholders are urged to contact members of the commission, urging them to take the full allowed time under 114 rather than ignoring the will of voters and abandoning a measured approach in managing the resources entrusted to the Colorado Wildlife Commission. Emails may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A statement from a spokesperson for Gov. Polis read, in part, that the administration realizes “that this is an issue that sparks passions on both sides, and is ripe for rushes to judgment or speculation from passionate advocates, eager to frame the state’s work at every turn as a “rush” on one side, or on the other hand “intentionally dragging heels.”
The state has been directed to undertake this work by Colorado voters, and as the Governor expressed, he would like to see a professional, science-based, quality process and one that does not include delays that risk running up against the end-dates included
in Prop 114. Given the current status of a number of variables, particularly at the federal level, it is his hope that both those goals can be accomplished.“
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