For Immediate Release, February 17, 2021

Contact:

Delia Malone, Sierra Club, (970) 319-9498, delia.malone@rmc.sierraclub.org
Michael Robinson, Center for Biological Diversity, (575) 313-7017, michaelr@biologicaldiversity.org
Rhonda Dern, Colorado Wolf Alliance, (720) 320-5982, rhondadern@me.com

Colorado Governor, Wildlife Officials Urged to Adopt Clearer, Quicker Wolf Restoration Plan

Scientists, Organizations Say Hearings Should Focus On Clarifying Alternative Ways to Implementing Proposition 114

DENVER— Dozens of organizations and scientists sent a letter to Gov. Jared Polis and the leaders of Colorado Parks and Wildlife today warning of a “perilously cumbersome process” already underway in developing a wolf restoration and management plan.

Proposition 114, the wolf reintroduction initiative approved by Colorado voters in November, requires such a plan to be developed on the basis of science and public hearings.

“This murky process gives those who burned millions of dollars on misleading anti-wolf ads another shot at squelching reintroduction before the animals are even released,” said Delia Malone of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We suggest a clearer, quicker and less expensive process that respects Colorado voters by making public comment meaningful and ensuring that current science is front and center in the planning and restoration of gray wolves to Colorado.

The Parks and Wildlife-devised process sets the stage for blowing past Proposition 114’s Dec. 31, 2023 deadline to begin wolf releases. Under the process, the plan would not be approved until December 2023, just weeks or even days before wolf releases must take place, according to the law. Required public hearings, also in late 2023, would occur too late for public comment to be meaningfully integrated into the plan.

“The science and data are available now that would allow us to have paws on the ground and to be able to hear the howls of our gray wolves in the crisp Colorado night air as soon as next year,” said Rhonda Dern, a co-founder of the Colorado Wolf Alliance, a group of volunteers who were instrumental in Proposition 114’s passage. “We won’t accept a plan written behind closed doors that sacrifices wolves to resolve conflicts.”

“Responsibility for developing the plan is unclear,” today’s letter warns. “Fundamentally, we are concerned that the process will lead to a plan that does not incorporate the best scientific data available, thereby undercutting restoration of the wolf’s ecological role in Colorado — one of the major reasons for the reintroduction of this apex carnivore.”

The letter from Colorado and national groups and biologists urges the state to adopt a more straightforward planning process similar to that used by federal agencies. It would involve comparing different wolf-management alternatives and using public comments to sharpen the analysis and choose among the alternatives.

“Officials should develop diverging management strategies and use peer-reviewed science to predict the consequences of each so that people can explain their preferences in public hearings later this year,” said Michael Robinson at the Center for Biological Diversity. “That’s way more democratic than empowering anti-wolf special interests to dominate, with wolves paying the price with their lives.”

Background

Proposition 114 identifies wolves as “an essential part of the wild habitat of Colorado” and states: “Once restored to Colorado, gray wolves will help restore a critical balance in nature.”

The proposition requires Colorado Parks and Wildlife to develop a wolf restoration and management plan “using the best scientific data available” while also holding “statewide public hearings to gain information to consider in developing such [a] plan, including scientific, economic and social considerations.” The law also calls for assisting “owners of livestock in preventing and resolving conflicts between gray wolves and livestock” and paying “fair compensation” for livestock losses to the extent funds are available.

Today’s letter states, “Proposition 114’s separate obligations should be followed clearly in the process to develop a wolf restoration and management plan. The law’s distinct requirements to rely on science, which tells us how to achieve success and predicts the consequences of our actions, and to consider people’s opinions and strive for equity, which can guide how we act to promote coexistence with wolves, should be kept distinct in the process of developing the plan. Keeping this difference between science and values clear throughout the process will diminish controversy.”

RSGrayWolf_USFWS_FPWC_2_HIGHRES-scr.jpg
Gray wolf (Canis lupus). Please credit Gary Kramer, USFWS. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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.” Sierra Club has more than 2.1 million members and supporters nationwide, including more than 80,000 supporters and members in Colorado. Although we are comprised of a diverse community, the tie that binds is our commitment to conserving those places, processes and organisms that will sustain our natural heritage with all its biological diversity.

With the successful passage of Proposition 114, the Colorado Wolf Alliance was formed to promote non-lethal coexistence strategies with gray wolves upon their reintroduction to Colorado. The Colorado Wolf Alliance is dedicated to protecting gray wolves and the ecosystems that they will be living in when they arrive as well as into the future.