Colorado's wolf reintroduction timeline is unclear even with final plan
The state wildlife board unanimously approved a plan Wednesday to reintroduce wolves in Colorado, but when paws will land on the ground remains a question mark.
What's happening: Upwards of 50 endangered gray wolves will get freed in two Western Slope regions in the next three to five years under the 261-page plan to implement a ballot measure voters approved in 2020.
- The final language — crafted after dozens of hearings and comments from the public — allows wolves to be killed by ranchers when they are harassing or attacking livestock, but it no longer permits regulated wolf hunts after the population is stabilized.
- Ranchers are eligible to receive compensation from the state when their animals are killed or injured by wolves.
Why it matters: This is the first time a state is reintroducing wildlife under a voter mandate.
Yes, but: The timeline for reintroduction is murky.
- A bill put forward by Western Slope lawmakers and advancing at the Capitol would require Gov. Jared Polis' administration to first obtain a federal waiver under the Endangered Species Act before reintroduction.
- The waiver process is underway and would allow the state to manage the wolf population.
- How the state will get captured gray wolves also is unknown, after officials in five Western states told 9News they weren't working with Colorado on the planned donation.
The intrigue: The controversy that cloaked the wolf vote in the 2020 election followed the process into its final moments, as advocates for reintroduction and livestock organizations lobbied the Colorado Parks and Wildlife board to make changes in their favor.
- Garfield County Commissioner Mike Sampson said "an Apex predator is being forced upon" Western Slope residents because "Colorado voters attempted to be Mother Nature."
- Lindsay Larris at WildEarth Guardians countered that wolves should never be killed on public lands and that killing them "does not decrease conflict."
What to watch: Polis has committed to putting the first wolves on the ground by the end of 2023.
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