By Shannon Lukens.
The Wolf Commission with Colorado Parks and Wildlife presented revisions to its draft plan in Steamboat Springs April 6. This after five public meetings and 3,975 comments from individuals and organizations that were sent to the commission members to consider. 46% of those comments were from out of state, 35% were from the Front Range, and 19% were from the Western Slope.
Carrie Hauser is chair of the commission. She thanked the CPW staff for all of their work on the plan and all of the stakeholder groups.
“And trying to capture that all and put it all into a wolf restoration plan that really represents the broadest of stakeholders. Not everybody is going to be perfectly happy and that’s compromise. And I think that’s where we are now. And I think it really is an example of teamwork and collaboration.”
Dan Gibbs is the Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources. He was asked about SB23-256 (Management of Gray Wolves Reintroduction) that is currently in the State Legislature regarding the 10J Rule, which would allow lethal management of gray wolves by CPW officers, and ranchers with a permit. It would be a chronic depredator that has been attacking and/or killing wildlife. Gibbs said he and the governor have problems with the bill. We asked what he thinks Governor Polis will do if the bill passes the House and Senate, and lands on this desk.
“You know I think as the bill stands, it’s very problematic. It’s tied to litigation. It’s not workable right now, frankly. But there’s a long road and we’ll see what amendments get adopted and see what it looks like at the end of the day and if it gets to the governor’s desk.”
“Is he going to veto it?”
“I think as the bill is written right now, the Governor and myself, we have serious reservations. We have serious concerns. And we’ll see what it looks like if it makes it to his desk. But to tie the 10J process, a federal process tied to our state process, even though we’re working real hard to get this 10J, to have that tied in the same realm, is not workable for us right now.”
Twenty people spoke during public comment at the meeting, both for and against wolf reintroduction and management options, some in person and some online.
Dan Waldvogel is the Director of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.
“Well, I just think it’s critical that we find ways to work with the will of the voters while protecting the livelihoods of our ranching communities and also the communities that depend on hunting for their revenue.”
Jo Stanko is a century rancher in Routt County and is a regional agent with the Department of Agriculture.
“If you are a rancher that has wolves, the impact is momentous. It is a financial, emotional, and monumental.”
Karin Mahuna is from Teller County. She also spoke at the wolf commission meeting.
“I feel that wolves are a part of Colorado. They belong in Colorado. They’ve been here for millenia. They are an important part of the ecosystem, and that they have a right to live. And I think that as humans, that we have really exploited animals so much for our own use. And that’s the situation with wolves. They’ve been driven out and killed. We first of all killed all of the wildlife that they fed on back in the 1800s and then they started predating on some livestock and so then they were all killed because of that. But that was always our issue. And I think that we should start looking at what we can do as people to co-exist but we’re facing a six mass extinction and I don’t want to lose all our wildlife. I don’t want there just to be domestic animals. I want the full spectrum of wildlife because they belong here. For millions of years and hundreds of thousands of years, the wolves and the elk and the deer and everything has co-existed together and in 150 years, we’ve destroyed all that and I would like to see that be whole.”
Jennifer Burbey also spoke at the meeting. She is the president of the Colorado Outfitters Association and she was on the stakeholder committee. She is from southern Colorado.
“This is frustrating because it was forced upon people. The timeline is accelerated and the wolf is a picture of what’s being pressed on the larger idea nationwide, actually, which is a push on the North America model. There is a very well organized, well-funded faction, that wants hunting to go away and want hunting as a management tool to go away. They’d rather just have everything be wild.”
“How does this affect you?”
“Potentially, this makes a middle age guide and packer who has done this for 38 years, I will be out of business.”
One thing the commission did change in the new plan is the maximum compensation if livestock or a working animal is killed by wolves went from $8,000 to $15,000.
Another agenda item was Tribal Engagement. The Wolf Commission heard from Valerie Torres on the Tribal Council for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe. She says the tribe will draft their own wolf management plan.
“Importantly, the tribe is a sovereign nation and not subject to state regulation.”
Torres says the Southern Utes will work directly with US Fish and Wildlife instead of on a state level.
“We anticipate working with a direct fish and wildlife service under the proposed 10J Rule to increase our management flexibility of these species.”
The 10J Rule would allow lethal management of problem wolves. Right now, anyone who kills a wolf can be fined $100,000, get a year in jail, and lose hunting privileges for life. A bill is in the Colorado State Legislature that would allow the 10J Rule and lethal management.
Chairman Melvin Baker of the Southern Ute Tribe sent a letter to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Wolf Commission asking that no wolves be reintroduced in the southern release zone because it is too close to the Brunot area where tribal members have hunting access.
Chairman Baker also asked that the maximum compensation for killing of livestock or a working ranch animal by wolves be raised from $8,000 to $15,000 and the local commission did make that change.
CPW Wolf Commission Chair Carrie Hauser said they hope their commission can meet with the Southern Utes to further discuss wolf management.
It was also announced that Jeff Davis will be the new director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, replacing interim director Heather Dugan on May 1. The commission members thanked Dugan for her service with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
CPW TO PRESENT FINAL DRAFT WOLF RESTORATION AND MANAGEMENT PLAN IN STEAMBOAT SPRINGS