After more than two years of extensive statewide stakeholder meetings and outreach via a series of public hearings, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission on Wednesday gave final approval to the final Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan.
The plan was unanimously adopted through a two-step approval process that began at a CPW Commission meeting in Steamboat Springs.
The final approval clears the way for CPW biologists to introduce wolves in the Western Slope area and meet the voter-approved deadline of reintroduction by December 31, 2023.
“Within just 2-and-a-half years, and after robust stakeholder engagement, the Parks and Wildlife Commission has approved a responsible plan to implement the will of the voters and reintroduce gray wolves back to their historic range in Colorado,” said Gov. Jared Polis. “This plan is better because of the thousands of Coloradans who provided thoughtful input, and I thank the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for their comprehensive work to develop this thoughtful plan. This science-based plan is the result of months of planning, convening stakeholder and expert working groups, and offering live and public comment opportunities, while factoring inthe biological needs of the species, and creating the best possible chance for these amazing animals to be successfully restored to our state.”
“I thank the Commission, the team at CPW, the many experts, Coloradans, and stakeholders who dedicated so many hours of their time, and especially the passionate public that has remained invested from start to finish, sharing their ideas and helping to shape this plan to prepare for enacting the will of Colorado’s voters,” the Governor concluded.
After the Draft Wolf Restoration and Management Plan was released Dec. 9, CPW’s extensive public outreach efforts through in-person and virtual meetings, as well as on its website engagecpw.org, produced about 4,000 comments online and via in-person testimony from 232 people at its five public meetings across Colorado in January and February.
“The Wolf Restoration and Management Plan is a huge accomplishment for Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the citizens of Colorado. In line with the will of Coloradans, we are on track to re-establish and restore wolves in Colorado by December 31, 2023,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “This would not have been possible without the tireless work of CPW staff and the Parks and Wildlife Commission, the members of both our advisory boards and the citizens and stakeholders who engaged and weighed in to make our wolf management plan the best for Coloradans and for wolves who will once again grace our Colorado landscapes.”
“We are so grateful to our advisory groups for providing their expertise to this plan and for those who came to public meetings and commented on the draft plan,” said CPW Director Jeff Davis. “As wolf reintroduction begins in Colorado, the input we received on this plan from a wide variety of stakeholders will help ensure a successful program in the years to come.”
“The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission was assigned the responsibility to develop a plan to restore and manage gray wolves in Colorado. The Commission is to be commended for its tireless, thoughtful and important work over the past two years in addition to its other statutory obligations,” said CPW Commission Chair Carrie Besnette Hauser. “The dedication by this group of volunteers to travel across the state to listen and learn from the public and key advisory groups shows a spirit of collaboration and compromise on an issue with many viewpoints. Throughout the process, the Commission also relied on talented experts and scientists, and remained cognizant of the impacts the plan and wolf reintroduction will have on Colorado’s Western Slope where reintroduction will occur.”
Immediately following the approval of the final Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan, the Commission unanimously passed resolution 2023:01 – Regarding Reintroduction of Gray Wolves.
The resolution reaffirms the Commission’s appreciation and support for the ongoing efforts of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a partner with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to finalize the 10(j) rule as anticipated.
The resolution also reaffirms the Commission “finds and determines that the successful implementation of Proposition 114, now codified as state statute 33-2-105.8, relies on the implementation of best management practices to resolve conflict with persons engaged in ranching and farming in this state.” At the April Commission meeting, many of the final edits for the plan were discussed, including:
Wolf-livestock depredation compensation
- The Commission supported revising the draft plan to raise the cap on livestock compensation, as well as guard and herding animal compensation, to $15,000 per animal.
- The Commission supported revising the draft plan to exclude veterinary expenses from the compensation cap for livestock, as well as guard and herding animals, up to $15,000 or the fair market value of the livestock at issue, whichever is lower. This means claimants can get paid for injury and death to livestock and related veterinary expenses, up to a potential maximum of $30,000 per animal.
- The Commission supported revising the draft plan to require claimants pursuing an itemized claim to provide documents or self-certify the use of vaccines and pregnancy checks in lieu of producing “Records for the current year that demonstrate vaccination status.”
- The Commission supported revising the draft plan to include a two-tiered compensation ratio (1.25:1 or 1:1) for missing yearlings depending on whether the claimant uses conflict minimization practices. This means if conflict minimization practices are implemented, a livestock owner that has had a confirmed cattle depredation by wolves may claim up to 1.25 missing yearlings for each confirmed cattle depredation (a 1.25:1 ratio). If conflict minimization techniques are not implemented, a livestock owner that has had a confirmed cattle depredation by wolves may claim up to 1 missing yearling for each confirmed cattle depredation (a 1:1 ratio).
- The Commission supported the draft plan, as written, insofar as it conditions 7:1 ratio claims on the claimant’s use of conflict minimization practices. This means that if conflict minimization practices are implemented, up to 7 missing calves and sheep may be claimed for each confirmed cattle or sheep depredation (a 7:1 ratio).
Chapter 6 of the final Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan provides more detail and examples specific to compensation and conflict minimization.
Wolf reintroduction and management
- The Commission supported Chapter 3 (Reintroduction Implementation) of the draft plan, as written, provided the Technical Working Group recommendations are incorporated by reference into the plan and that wolves injured in transport, if any, will be sent to a rehabilitation facility where feasible and appropriate in lieu of euthanasia.
- The Commission supported Chapter 4 (Recovery of Wolves in Colorado) of the draft plan, as written, concerning the population thresholds for the conclusion of Phases 1 and 2.
- The Commission supported Chapter 5 (Wolf Management), as written.
- The plan will not contain a geographical distribution component as a prerequisite to gray wolves moving from Phase 1 (endangered) to Phase 2 (threatened). See § 33-1-102(44), CRS (“Threatened species” means any species or subspecies of wildlife which, as determined by the commission, is not in immediate jeopardy of extinction but is vulnerable because it exists in such small numbers or is so extremely restricted throughout all or a significant portion of its range that it may become endangered.”)
- To transition from Phase 2 to Phase 3, the plan was amended to require a count of 150 wolves for two successive years or 200 wolves at any time and will add a geographical distribution component through a finding that the species “is present in a significant portion of its range.”
- The plan was amended to require Division staff to conduct a population viability analysis as a prerequisite to gray wolves moving from Phase 2 (threatened) to Phase 3 (nongame).
- Following the conclusion of the initial release, CPW staff will provide updates on the plan at least annually to the Commission on the plan’s progress, but staff can be asked to provide an update, and the Commission may revise the plan and its regulations, at any time interval if there are significant new developments. A more formal review of progress on the plan will be scheduled for five years after the initial release.
Visit CPW’s Stay Informed page and sign up for the Wolf Reintroduction eNews to stay up to date with CPW’s Wolf Restoration efforts.
Written by Travis Duncan. Travis is a public information officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Denver. He has lived in Colorado for nearly 20 years and loves the outdoors.