The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission today adopted the final draft of the agency’s Wolf Restoration and Management Plan with a unanimous vote. This comes after nearly two years of collecting input from a broad range of stakeholders, including ranchers, scientists, hunters, advocates, wolf experts and community members.
"The plan developed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife is a significant step towards reintroducing gray wolves to Colorado," said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. "Through the collaborative efforts of state and federal agencies, conservation organizations and local communities, Colorado’s plan is clearly committed to restoring wolves while balancing the needs and concerns of all stakeholders. We hope these relationships continue as the state brings back this iconic species later this year.”
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and the governor-appointed Commission were tasked with developing a science-based plan to reintroduce wolves west of the continental divide by December 31, 2023 after Colorado voters passed Proposition 114 in 2020.
“Humans and wolves have a deep emotional and political history, but I think if we sat down to listen and talk without categorizing each other or making assumptions, we aren’t as far apart as it may seem,” said Defenders of Wildlife’s Rockies and Plains Representative, Kaitie Schneider. “We must come together before we can move forward. Those of us at Defenders, including myself, are ready to work with the people living and working in the reintroduction areas to ensure peaceful coexistence.”
CPW’s Wolf Restoration and Management Plan outlines a phased approach, starting with the release of 10 to 15 wolves on state or private lands every winter for the next 3 to 5 years, totaling 30 to 50 wolves sourced from the northern Rockies. They identified two zones for the releases in the core of Colorado’s wolf habitat at least 60 miles from any state or tribal border. The species can be downlisted to state-threatened once there are 50 wolves in the state for 4 successive years, and delisted to nongame after there are 150 for two successive years or 200 at any time.
While it is statistically rare for producers to lose livestock to wolves, CPW’s wolf plan will institute one of the most generous compensation plans in the country. Ranchers and producers will receive 100% fair market value up to $15,000 for each confirmed wolf depredation.
Before CPW will know whether their plan can be fully implemented, they must obtain a final Section 10(j) rule by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The public comment period for the federal draft rule closed last month, and CPW and the Service are in full cooperation to secure a final rule before wolf reintroductions are set to begin by the end of the year.