For Immediate Release, February 22, 2023
Collette Adkins, (651) 955-3821, email@example.com
Lawsuit Launched to Protect Colorado Wolves From Hunters at Wyoming Border
Forest Service Pressed to Ban Hunting, Trapping in Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest
DENVER— The Center for Biological Diversity today notified the U.S. Forest Service of its intent to sue over the agency’s failure to protect wolves from hunters in Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest. The lawsuit would seek a ban on wolf hunting and trapping in the entire forest, which straddles the Colorado-Wyoming border.
“Colorado’s precious, endangered wolves shouldn’t be gunned down when they wander across a state border they don’t even know exists,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation program director at the Center. “To truly help Colorado’s wolves recover, the Forest Service needs to move quickly to ban wolf hunting and trapping in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest. Our federal public lands should be safe havens for rare wildlife.”
In January 2021 two wolves that entered Colorado from Wyoming were documented travelling together. That June agency staff observed six black pups with this pair in Jackson County, Colorado. These pups are the first known wild wolves born in Colorado since the 1920s. This family is now referred to as the North Park pack.
In the fall of 2022 Colorado Parks and Wildlife received reports that Wyoming hunters killed three black sub-adult female wolves within 10 miles of the Colorado border, in central Wyoming near the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest. Agency scientists believe that these wolves were young members of the North Park pack.
“It’s inexcusable that Colorado wolves face death when they cross into Wyoming,” said Adkins. “Until federal protections are restored to Wyoming’s wolves, the U.S. Forest Service needs to step up and ensure wolves aren’t killed on federal lands.”
Wolves that travel across the border into Colorado or are reintroduced into Colorado are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. However, wolves that enter Wyoming are not protected and can be killed under Wyoming state law.
The Endangered Species Act requires federal agencies like the U.S. Forest Service to conserve endangered wolves. Today’s legal notice explains that by failing to ban wolf hunting and trapping on the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest or otherwise take actions to promote the survival and recovery of Colorado wolves, the Forest Service is violating federal law.
The Endangered Species Act requires that parties submit a 60-day notice of intent to sue before a lawsuit can be filed. If the Service fails to remedy its legal violations within 60 days, the Center intends to file a formal lawsuit.
Individual wolves from Wyoming have occasionally crossed the Wyoming-Colorado border into the northern portions of Colorado. Over the past decade, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has had confirmed or probable wolf dispersals in 2004, 2006, 2009, 2015 and then annually since 2019.
In 2020 Colorado voters passed Proposition 114, which calls for reintroduction of wolves by the end of 2023. The agency plans to release about 30 to 50 wolves in total over a three-to-five-year time frame. Proposition 114 also requires the development of a science-based plan to ensure the wolves “help restore a critical balance in nature.” Today is the last day for the public to submit comments on that plan, as well as the final public hearing.
Last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposed rule to govern management of reintroduced Colorado wolves. Wildlife conservation groups oppose provisions that would allow livestock operators and federal and state agents to kill wolves, even on Colorado’s public lands, without requiring the use of nonlethal conflict prevention measures first.
In 2022 a federal court restored federal protection to wolves across most of the lower 48 states, including in Colorado. However, these protections do not extend to Wyoming or the rest of the northern Rocky Mountains population. The Center and its allies have filed a lawsuit to restore those protections.
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.