Colorado Parks and Wildlife commissioners’ stance opposing release of wolves complicates federal push to prevent wolf extinction
Colorado wildlife commissioners took a stand Wednesday night opposing the release of wolves in the state, overriding a blitz by pro-wolf groups pressing for ecological benefits of predators.
Colorado’s new posture represents a pre-emptory challenge to court-ordered U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service efforts to save wolves, an endangered species.
Cattle and sheep industry leaders backed the resolution — commissioners voted 7-4 — banning release of both Mexican wolves and gray wolves.
Colorado still has a policy that it will take care of any wolf that wanders into the state on its own. The issue is intentionally releasing them.
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife commissioners said they wanted to support Gov. John Hickenlooper, who on Nov. 13 joined governors of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico in a letter telling Interior Secretary Sally Jewell they oppose Mexican wolf recovery efforts on land where Mexican wolves historically did not exist. That likely includes parts of southwestern Colorado that federal biologists are considering as habitat.
“This does not represent Coloradans. It does not serve Colorado,” WildEarth Guardians biologist Taylor Jones said. “And it is un-necessarily antagonistic to wolf recovery.”
Federal officials declined to comment. They’re not required to seek state blessings as they develop a Mexican wolf recovery plan by the end of 2017 to prevent extinction.
Hickenlooper’s concern was “with their process in developing a recovery plan,” spokeswoman Kathy Green said. That concern is separate, she said, from resolutions state parks and wildlife commissioners considered.
“We are pro wildlife,” state spokesman Matt Robbins said before commissioners heard from both sides.
But pro-wolf demonstrators doubted that, carrying signs and howling in front of commissioners’ facilities in Denver.
“We should kick out cattle. Wolves belong here,” said Kia Bridges of the Boulder Rad-ish Collective. “If you bring back a predator, it puts an ecosystem back the way it is supposed to be. It would get prey animals moving.”
Sierra Club regional wildlife team leader Delia Malone argued that “Colorado needs wolves and wolves need Colorado.” The Sierra Club proposed an alternative resolution: that Colorado should invite introduction of Mexican wolves and re-introduction of gray wolves on habitat in the state.
Colorado Cattlemen vice president Terry Fankhauser supported the state stance. “Colorado is not appropriate wolf habitat,” Fankhauser said.
“Our human population is too high. And the deer population here is not robust enough to support wolves, which would drive them to eat livestock and pets.”
This article was published in The Denver Post.
Please write a letter to the editor in support of
bringing wolves back to Colorado.
bringing wolves back to Colorado.
The recent Mexican gray wolf rallies in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico
and Utah have generated a flurry of media and press.
The letters to the editor page is one of the most widely read, influential parts of the newspaper. One letter from you can reach thousands of people and will also likely be read by decision-makers. Tips and talking points for writing your letter are below, but please write in your own words, from your own experience. Your letter will be most effective if you focus on a few of the talking points below rather than trying to include them all.
This story was covered by several news sources throughout the region. Write one letter and send it to all of the following publishers. You can use the same letter for all news outlets, just slightly revise your letter for each publication. (For example, change the opening line”¦ E.g. “Thanks to The Denver Post for your article”, or “Thanks to the Summit Daily News for your article”¦”)
Colorado turns cold shoulder to endangered wolves — The Denver Post, CO
Wolf reintroduction in Colorado faces new obstacle — Summit Daily, CO
Colorado commission opposes introducing Mexican gray wolves — Albuquerque Journal, NM
Wildlife advocates hold rallies to save Mexican gray wolf — The Gazette, CO
Wildlife advocates hold rallies to save Mexican gray wolf — Arizona Daily Star, AZ
- For over 10,000 years, grey wolves lived throughout Utah and Colorado and played an important role in shaping the landscape and maintaining balance in nature. Under state management, most subspecies of wolves were hunted and trapped to extinction. The highly endangered Mexican grey wolf is the most appropriate surviving subspecies for recovery in Utah and Colorado, and they cannot recover without help from all four states.
- The states are using out of date information — newer studies support a more northward range for Mexican gray wolves historically. Genetic research has found evidence of Mexican wolf genetic markers in Utah and Colorado, and as far north as Nebraska.
- The US Fish and Wildlife Service should stop letting anti-wolf state officials obstruct wolf recovery. The last effort to create a Mexican wolf recovery plan stalled precisely because the states were given opportunities to weigh in before the work of the scientific experts was released for public comment. The most recent recovery planning process, which began in 2011, ended amidst allegations of political interference by these same states with the science.
- Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed a scientific integrity complaint in 2012 saying that US Fish and Wildlife Service allowed politics to interfere with the Mexican wolf recovery planning process by encouraging scientists to lower or forgo the numeric target for recovery, responding to state demands to exclude Utah, Colorado, and Northern Arizona from suitable habitat, and attempting to prevent the science subgroup from issuing final Mexican wolf recovery criteria.
- It’s hypocritical for the governors to argue that Mexican wolves should be excluded based on whether they are “native.” The state game agencies have no problem moving game species and fish into places they never lived simply for the convenience of hunters and fishermen.
- The Endangered Species Act does not require recovery to occur within species’ historic range.
- Recovery of Mexican gray wolves cannot occur wholly in Mexico. There are no large blocks of public lands, there is not a great deal of suitable habitat and prey, and there may not be enough resources to do the job.
- We need wolves, be they Mexican gray wolves or northern wolves, to help repair western wildlands. Taking a lesson from Yellowstone and the important role of top predators in ecosystems, many of us would welcome lobos throughout the Southwest.
- States have failed to manage wildlife as a public trust for current and future citizens. State wildlife policies, which kill off predators to supposedly support game populations, are rooted in the 1800s. Fortunately, our national policy is to restore and preserve all forms of wildlife, including predators. Until the states get serious about balancing conservation vs. consumption, they should recuse themselves from decisions about endangered species.
Letter Writing Tips
Make sure you:
Make sure you:
- Thank the paper for this article and make sure to reference the article in your letter.
- Submit your letter as soon as possible. The chance of your letter being published declines after a day or two since the article was published.
- Do not repeat any negative messages, such as “so and so said that wolves kill too many cows, but”¦” Remember that those reading your letter will not be looking at the article it responds to, so this is an opportunity to get out positive messages about wolf recovery rather than to argue with the original article.
- Keep your letter brief, no more than 200 words. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.
- Include something about who you are and why you care: E.g. “I am a mother, outdoors person, teacher, business owner, scientific, religious, etc.” Don’t be afraid to be personal and creative.
- Provide your name, address, phone number and address. The paper won’t publish these, but they want to know you are who you say you are.
WANT TO DO MORE FOR LOBOS?
You can also help by sending a message to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission through Defenders of Wildlife’s and WildEarth Guardians’ sites.
Messages to Interior Secretary Jewell and USFWS Director Dan Ashe will make a difference as well, since they have authority over the Mexican wolf reintroduction. Act here.
Thank you for speaking out for lobos!
Photo credit: Scott Denny