USFWS releases 10(j) rule ahead of schedule

The 10(j) rule is now expected to be in place in Colorado more than a month before the statutory deadline of releasing gray wolves by Dec. 31, 2023. Photo courtesy USFWS
Photo courtesy USFWS

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the availability of the final Environmental Impact Statement and draft record of decision to establish an experimental population of gray wolves in Colorado under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act, nearly three weeks ahead of schedule. 

Once finalized, this action will provide Colorado Parks and Wildlife with more management flexibility, which is expected to increase the likelihood of overall gray wolf restoration success. The 10(j) rule is now expected to be in place in Colorado more than a month before the statutory deadline of releasing gray wolves by Dec. 31, 2023. 

In the EIS, the USFWS selected Alternative 1, which will provide the management flexibility afforded by 10(j) throughout the entirety of the state of Colorado.

“This demonstrates a sincere and effective commitment by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to accomplish this task on a very accelerated timeline,” said CPW Director Jeff Davis. “National Environmental Policy Act work typically takes two to three years and it was accomplished in a little over a year-and-a-half. CPW leadership is very thankful to the demonstrated commitment and partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

Now that the rule has been published, a 30-day cooling period will occur, followed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s finalization of the rule. It is anticipated that the 10(j) rule will go into effect after an additional 30-day period, well before capture and release operations begin.

There is no public comment period open at this time, as the public comment for this rule has already occurred.

According to FWS, the FEIS and draft ROD were produced in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. The service will implement proposed Alternative 1 from the scoping and draft process; this alternative proposes approval of a 10(j) experimental population designation. A 10(j) experimental population rule will allow the service to provide designated management flexibility to the state for reintroduced gray wolves in Colorado. This management flexibility can help ensure co-existence between wolves and affected landowners contributing to the conservation of the species while reducing the potential impacts of reintroduction to stakeholders.  

The service will issue a final ROD and 10(j) experimental population designation no sooner than 30 days after this announcement is published in the Federal Register. A 30-day notice period is required between the publication of the draft ROD and final ROD.  

The publishing of the 10(j) earlier than anticipated does not necessarily translate to an earlier capture operation to reintroduce gray wolves. CPW will wait until capture conditions are ideal to begin capture operations, but the first reintroduction is still anticipated to occur prior to the Dec. 31, 2023, statutory deadline.

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