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Guest Opinion: Delia G. Malone: Wolves and Colorado need each other

Daily Camera, Boulder, CO – December 19, 2015 (updated 1/8/16)

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By Delia G. Malone

In January, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission will be voting to approve a resolution it drafted to prevent gray wolves from being restored to Colorado. Resolution 16-01 ignores the key role wolves play in healthy, thriving ecosystems, ignores best available science and ignores the vast majority of Coloradans who support wolf recovery.

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission's draft resolution to prevent the restoration of wolves to Colorado is contrary to best available science and is founded on inaccuracies regarding the impact of wolves on ranching and recreational economies. The Northern Rocky State's Agricultural Agencies document that wolf depredation on livestock in the Northern Rockies is exceedingly low. When ranchers use proven coexistence and conflict avoidance strategies, these rates become even lower (confirmed livestock depredations) in the northern Rocky Mountain states in 2014 were 136 cattle, 114 sheep, four dogs, one horse and one donkey.

To put these numbers into perspective, agricultural census data in 2014 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture report a total of 6,060,000 cattle and 815,000 sheep in the three northern Rocky Mountain states.

Importantly, this fast-tracked resolution — a vote is scheduled for early January — precludes Colorado citizens from engaging in dialogue. In fact, this resolution is potentially divisive and ill-timed because it superficially frames the discussion as the needs of the ranching and hunting community versus other Colorado constituencies. We recognize the importance of ranchers for their critical roles as stewards of Colorado habitat and contributors not only to the Colorado economy but to our history, traditions, and culture. We believe that by working together to implement wolf-livestock coexistence strategies, the people of Colorado can have the benefits of both a thriving ranching industry and intact natural habitats and ecosystems with their top predator restored.

Sierra Club's mission is "to explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth; to practice and promote the responsible use of the earth's ecosystems and resources; and to educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environments." Although we are comprised of a diverse population, the tie that binds us is our commitment to conserving those places, processes and organisms that will sustain our natural heritage with all of its biological diversity. Gray wolves are an essential component of our natural heritage.

Accordingly, the Sierra Club supports the reintroduction of gray wolves to Colorado. Since wolf reintroduction, peer-reviewed science documents the keystone role that wolves play in improving the biodiversity and function of Rocky Mountain habitats. In the northern Rockies where wolves have been reintroduced, elk populations are thriving, and hunter success is high. In the greater Yellowstone area, Aspen and other streamside vegetation, which were declining from too much browsing by elk, are recovering, and the songbirds that nest in those forests are also more numerous. Wolf and elk have coexisted for millennia in the Rocky Mountains, and have been major forces in shaping our landscapes. In essence, the presence of wolves helps restore the historical function and biodiversity of our plant and animal communities.

Colorado needs wolves. Our streamside communities and forests in many areas have changed since wolf extirpation, with loss of function and invasion of exotics. Our elk populations are substantially higher than the range can support and retain intact ecosystems. With Colorado's growing human population, restoration of our natural landscapes and our watersheds is increasingly important. We need natural habitats and intact watersheds to serve both wildlands and urban residents. We need intact wildlands to provide clean water, recreational opportunities, and solitude, spiritual inspiration, and respite from our stressful lives. We must protect our world-renowned Colorado biodiversity. Returning a keystone predator is a major step in this direction.

Wolves need Colorado. Wolves are an essential component of ecosystem restoration. In fact, Colorado has some of the best remaining habitat for wolves in the Lower 48. Habitat in southern Colorado is essential to the Mexican gray wolf, a subspecies whose recovery now depends, according to the best available science, on establishing a core population in the Colorado.

A 2013 poll indicates that the vast majority of Coloradans want wolves back. The commission's proposed resolution has neglected to consider the public interest and the obligations and vision of our nationally-respected state wildlife agency. Decisions made by the commission need to reflect best available science and the will of the people of Colorado.

Delia G. Malone is chair of the Wildlife Committee of the Sierra Club's Rocky Mountain Chapter. She lives in Redstone.

This Guest Opinion was published in the Daily Camera.

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Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission is considering a resolution opposing Mexican gray wolf recovery in Colorado.

The proposed resolution shuts the door on wolf recovery before it can even begin in Colorado, which has some of the best remaining suitable habitat for wolves in the Lower 48. Colorado habitat is essential to the endangered Mexican gray wolf, whose recovery now depends, according to the best available science, on establishing a core population in the state.

Please save the date to speak for wolves at the January 13th Commission meeting and a rally the same day. This will kick off a four state day of action for wolves in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona.


Rally and Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission Meeting
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Colorado Parks and Wildlife Hunter Education Building
6060 Broadway
Denver, Colorado
Please RSVP here

The rally will start at 2 p.m. Supporters are urged to show up early (1:30-1:45 p.m.) to fill out speaker cards for the commission meeting before the rally begins.

The anti-wolf resolution is on the commission meeting agenda for 4 p.m. Please bring your testimony in writing in case they do not allow everyone to speak. Representatives from conservation groups will have stickers and other means of making your support for wolves visible during the meeting.


Defenders of Wildlife has scheduled two briefings to help people understand the issues involved and prepare to participate in the meeting. Gary Wockner, wolf advocate/expert and member of the Colorado Wolf Working Group, will be speaking at both briefings and will provide tips for how to testify in front of the Commission as an effective wolf advocate.

Colorado wolf resolution in-person briefing
When: Thursday, January 7, 2016
Time: 6:00 pm-8:00 pm, with the presentation set to begin at 6:30pm
Where: Wheat Ridge, CO 80033
Please RSVP to CCattelino@defenders.org for full address and other information.

Colorado wolf resolution virtual briefing
When: Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Time: 6:00pm-7:30pm
Please RSVP to CCattelino@defenders.org for call-in information.

The proposed resolution, based on a letter sent by Governor Hickenlooper, along with the Governors of  Arizona, New Mexico and Utah to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, ignores the best available science, misinterprets the Endangered Species Act, and violates the Commission’s public trust responsibility to conserve wildlife for current and future generations.

Please urge the Commission stop this anti-wolf resolution in its tracks! Save the dates to speak for wolves in Denver in January.


You can also help by sending a message to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission through Defenders of Wildlife’s and WildEarth Guardians’ sites and by sending messages to Secretary Jewell and Director Ashe urging them not to let state politics interfere with science based recovery. 

We can overcome state opposition to wolf recovery if we all work together.

The rally in Colorado in January is part of a Day of Action that includes wolf supporters in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, as well as in Colorado, to tell the four corners states’ officials to promote, rather than prevent, wolf recovery.

Thank you giving these critically endangered wolves a voice.

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