Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials have confirmed they have additional evidence that a group of wolves is now residing in northwest Colorado. Fort Collins Coloradoan
The organization behind a ballot initiative to reintroduce wolves in Colorado said it does not support a recently introduced bill that aims to accomplish a similar goal.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Kerry Donovan (D-Vail), would authorize “the management and, if necessary, the reintroduction of the gray wolf in Colorado,” with a scheduled start date of Dec. 31, 2025, according to the bill summary.
Unlike the ballot proposal, the bill includes provisions for delaying reintroduction until there’s a source of revenue to pay for damages caused by the wolves. The bill also calls for canceling reintroduction altogether if there’s a self-sustaining wolf population in the state.
The bill was introduced two days after Colorado Parks and Wildlife confirmed the presence of a pack of gray wolves in Moffat County.
Donovan did not respond to a Coloradoan request for comment on the proposed legislation.
Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund president Rob Edward said Donovan’s initial bill contains “poison pills’’ that, as presently written, make it tough to swallow. His organization is the main proponent of the ballot initiative to reintroduce gray wolves in Colorado, which was validated last month by the Secretary of State’s office to appear on the 2020 ballot.
Edward said his organization opposes the bill’s reintroduction timetable of wolves on the ground by the end of 2025. The group’s ballot initiative, Initiative 107, calls for reintroduction by 2023.
The ballot initiative calls for the General Assembly to develop a means for compensation for livestock loss due to reintroduction. Unlike Donovan’s bill, it does not call for postponing reintroduction until the legislature identifies a funding source.
“Those issues allow for things to go sideways on reintroduction,’’ said Edward, who said he expects the bill to open dialogue on the issue. “Our bottom line is any legislation has to be as good or better than Initiative 107.’’
Edward said the reintroduction blueprint has been established by previous projects in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming and there should be no further delay in returning wolves to a Colorado landscape from which they have been largely absent since the 1940s.
He also doesn’t think reintroduction efforts are complicated by the recent discovery of a wolf pack in Colorado.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff saw the pack of six wolves Jan. 19 while investigating an animal carcass surrounded by large, wolf-like tracks in the northwest corner of Moffat County in northwest Colorado. It was the first documented pack in Colorado since before wolves were largely shot, poisoned and trapped out by ranchers and trappers more than 80 years ago.
Donovan, who is a rancher in addition to being a senator, proposed in the bill that reintroduction efforts be called off if a self-sustaining gray wolf population exists prior to reintroduction efforts.
But Edward said that’s not likely to happen.
“We still don’t have an established population of wolves and ultimately won’t in our lifetime given the lack of connectivity between Colorado and established wolf populations in other states without reintroduction,” Edward said.
Confirmation of the pack and the hope it establishes a breeding population excites conservation groups while worrying others. Ranchers’ and sportsmen’s groups largely oppose wolf reintroduction.
Carbondale-area rancher Bill Fales said he fears a lack of fair compensation for livestock losses to wolves and the loss of grazing rights permits on U.S. Forest Service land if wolves are reintroduced. Fales’ ranch is located in the heart of western Colorado where reintroduction backers hope to release wolves.
“They terrify me,” he said. “They can’t coexist with us. Ranchers have a pretty thin economic edge right now, and we don’t need another predator pushing us over the edge. I haven’t seen anywhere that compensation for livestock loss works. And when losses happen to livestock and grazing rights, you’ll see this ranchland going to condos and golf courses.”
Initiative 107 is set to appear on the November ballot in Colorado. Donovan’s bill has been assigned to the legislature’s Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee.
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