Wolf advocates push for more wolves, criticize CPW, hunters and ranchers | TheFencePost.com
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Wolf advocates push for more wolves, criticize CPW, hunters and ranchers

Wild Earth Guardians is leading the charge to release a Colorado Wolf Restoration Plan to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, a plan the group called an “alternative to CPW-led efforts focused on limiting and ‘managing’ wolves.” Rather than the 250 head of wolves the experts at CPW has previously discussed, the groups are pushing for 750 wolves, a number they call a minimum.

In a release, the groups said, “The best available science on self-sustaining populations and modeling of the Western Slope’s carrying capacity for wolves both indicate a minimum population of 150 packs or approximately 750 wolves. The plan is clear that 750 wolves is not a cap, but a minimum requirement for future state delisting from ‘threatened’ to ‘nongame’ status.”

In the introduction to the plan, the groups criticized the formal processes CPW has undertaken, saying they “minimize meaningful public input and uplifted the voices of ranchers, outfitters, trappers and hunters over others.”



They go on to say the spirit and letter of Proposition 114 have been lost or undermined and said the makeup, structure and facilitation of both the Technical Working Group (TWG) and Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG) “has tilted what should be an aspirational conversation towards a cynical one that has focused on livestock owner compensation, artificially limiting populations, and when, where, and how to kill wolves.”

ANIMAL ACTIVISTS PANEL



In a webinar led by Wild Earth Guardians, HSUS, and Sierra Club, Chris Smith, advocate with Wild Earth Guardians, panelists Delia Malone, ecologist with Colorado Sierra Club; Aubyn Royall, HSUS; Lindsay Larris, program director, Wild Earth Guardians and Chris Smith, advocate with Wild Earth Guardians reviewed the plan.

Larris said Colorado’s CPW process has lacked the positive benefits of wolf restoration and coexistence and said the groups’ plan focuses on reintroduction areas, population goal, management guidelines and compensation considerations. She also said Mexican Gray wolves should also be included in the reintroduction to increase the speed of the growth of that species in New Mexico and southern Colorado. CPW has opposed this in the past.

Larris said through the groups’ research, there are 17 million acres of suitable wolf habitat, and the state can support over 1,000 wolves. She said based on the elk prey base alone, the state could sustain 4,138 wolves.

Royall said while CPD is alleging a robust stakeholder process, she hopes the agency will incorporate the groups’ plan that she said includes a science-based and conservation perspective.

Malone said she there are elements to the process she finds concerning.

“The SAG is dominated by the very interests that got rid of wolves in the first place,” she said. “Those interests are dominating the conversation, rather than the interests that voted in wolves to come back to Colorado.”

Those interests, she said, are hunters and ranchers.

Smith said the amount of wolf/livestock conflict that occurs on the land is typically pretty overblown, though he said there will be some conflict when wolves are “back on the landscape in a meaningful way.”

Royall said native carnivores have an inherent right to exist on public land, and non-lethal measures should be prioritized.

“The focus on this issue really does outweigh how significant the problem is,” she said. “Data from state and federal agencies reflects that wolves cause very, very few livestock losses.”

Flagged fencing, sanitary carcass removal, and livestock guardian animals are among the proactive conflict reduction methods she said the plan recommends. In terms of compensation for livestock losses, the plan dictates that non-lethal measures and conflict prevention strategies appropriate to the site be implemented for a sufficient amount of time as a prerequisite for compensation payment.

CATTLEMEN RESPOND

The Colorado Cattlemens Association reponded to the report, clarifying that the authors of the Proposition 114 called for a “statewide hearing to acquire information to be considered in developing such plan, including scientific, economic and social considerations pertaining to such restoration” and to “periodically obtain public input to update such a plan.” With this in mind, CCA said no individual groups should be allowed to circumvent the process to advocate for their individual ideas or promote a one-sided process over one developed by the state game management agency and professionals who gather all stakeholder input, including producers whose daily lives are directly affected by wolves already depredating livestock in the state.

“While very disappointed with the passage of Proposition 114 in 2020 and concerned of the negative implications forced wolf introduction will have on Colorado, CCA remains committed to engaging in the state management wolf processes and ensuring that livestock producers’ concerns are represented,” said Philip Anderson, CCA president.

According to a release from CCA, throughout the process, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association leadership and members have made public comments and testimony through many of the wolf processes including the Wolf Stakeholder Advisory Group, Technical Working Group, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission meetings, and submitting written comments through the online comment form. The comments and testimony of producers should not be undervalued as Proposition 114 states “restoration of the gray wolf to the state must be designed to resolve conflicts with persons engaged in ranching and farming in this state.”

Larris said in reading newspaper reports throughout the state, she has noted a large amount of rhetoric about how this is an instance of Front Range voters imposing their values on the Western Slope. She said there were people who voted yes for Proposition 114 all over the state and Denver County didn’t unanimously vote for the measure, nor did Western Slope counties unanimously vote against it.

“These are individual voters who wanted this and, yes, there might be more individuals on the Western Slope that voted no, but there are certainly a number of people in that Western Slope area who do want wolves reintroduced there. To paint this black and white dichotomy of Front Range is pro-wolf but doesn’t have to deal with it and the Western Slope does, is not the reality of how the votes came out.”

Royall added that she anticipates a number of voters voted against the measure out of a distrust of the CPW.

“They’ve seen how native carnivores are treated in this state and they do not want Colorado Parks and Wildlife agency to open them up to a slaughter, which we’ve seen in other states and even from afar,” she said.

The Fence Post Magazine asked the panel why the plan requires that only CPW be allowed to confirm depredations, not allowing the USDA Wildlife Services to do so. Smith pointed to an article in The Intercept alleging falsified depredation reports by Wildlife Services at the behest of livestock owners that he said incentivized both producers’ careless care of their cattle and facilitated the killing of Mexican wolves. In the groups’ plan, Mexican wolves are included to ensure “real Mexican wolf recovery would require three sub-populations that are interconnected. The ideal areas are the Gila Bioregion (where wolves currently roam), the Grand Canyon area, and the Southern Rockies. According to an email from Smith, a population of Mexican wolves in the southern Rockies (the San Juan National Forest is an ideal location) would contribute to genetic rescue.” Smith said there is “abundant suitable habitat for Mexican wolves in southern Colorado. And that habitat is likely to increase in importance as climate change continues to warm and aridify Mexico and southern Arizona and New Mexico.”

In addition to Wild Earth Guardians, signatories also include Center for Biological Diversity, Project Coyote, The Rewilding Institute, Green Latinos, Colorado Sierra Club, Humane Society of the United States, Herbal Gardens Wellness, Western Watersheds Project, Colorado Voters for Animals, Endangered Species Coalition, Animal Welfare Institute, Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project, and Wolf Conservation Center.

The CPW Commission meets in Edwards on July 21 and 22. According to the agenda, the Keystone Update on Wolf Planning will be Friday at 8:35 a.m. followed by a CPW Wolf Planning update and comments until 10:25. The meeting, which is scheduled to end at noon Friday, will be livestreamed.

SIDEBAR

We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, intend to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of issuing a proposed rule requested by the State of Colorado for its reintroduction and management of the gray wolf (Canis lupus).

As part of the reintroduction and management planning process, the state has requested that the service designate an experimental population under section 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973. We are considering promulgating a section 10(j) rule to address components of the gray wolf restoration and management plan being developed by the state of Colorado. The proposed rule would set forth regulations to manage reintroduced gray wolves in Colorado and potentially adjoining states to reduce potential impacts to stakeholders while ensuring reintroduction and management of wolves is consistent with federal regulations. We invite input from other federal and state agencies, Tribes, nongovernmental organizations, private-sector businesses, and members of the public on the scope of the EIS, alternatives to our proposed approaches for assisting in the reintroduction and management of the gray wolf in Colorado, and the pertinent issues that we should address in the EIS. Comment submission: To ensure consideration of written comments, they must be received on or before August 22, 2022. Comments submitted online at https://www.regulations.gov must be received by 11:59 p.m. ET on the closing date.

Public meetings: We will hold public scoping open houses on Aug. 2, 3, and 4, 2022. In addition, we will present a public webinar. Additional information regarding these scoping sessions, including the times, will be available on our website at https://www.fws.gov/office/colorado-ecological-services-field-office. Persons wishing to participate in the public scoping meetings who need special accommodations should contact Nicole Alt at (303) 236-4773 or Colorado_wolf_10j@fws.gov by July 27, 2022.

Comment submission: You may submit written comments by one of the following methods. Please do not submit comments by both methods.

• Online: https://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. FWS-R6-ES-2022-0100.

• U.S. mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R6-ES-2022-0100; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: PRB/3W, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041-3803.

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