By James Steindler
The road to reintroducing gray wolves in Colorado stretches on, circling back to Glenwood Springs, for the second time since mid-summer, for a public Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG) meeting on Oct. 27.
The SAG meetings, which occur monthly at various parts of the state, are open to the public. In Glenwood, at Colorado Mountain College’s Morgridge Commons, the day-long forum included presentations and conversations regarding 1) habitat suitability mapping, 2) restoration logistics and 3) livestock interactions.
The SAG is made up of regional stakeholders with varying opinions about the management of gray wolves once the species returns to Colorado.
The public was allotted two thirty-minute periods, one before lunch and one at the end of the day, to say their piece. Each individual was given three minutes to speak, which a facilitator held them to.
Carbondale rancher Mark Perry spoke during the afternoon’s public comment period. “While I have a lot of thoughts about conflict mitigation and compensation, I’d like to address what seems to me to be a gap in these proceedings,” she began. What’s missing, according to Perry, “is a concerted effort to educate the public on the importance of ranches to Colorado.” Perry acknowledged that discussions regarding ranching do occur in the SAG meetings and in rural areas, but this is lost on urban dwellers.
“What should the public understand?” Perry rhetorically asked. “Well, wolves will spend probably as much time on private ranch lands as on the National Forest.” She also argued that wolf packs “are forced to adjust constantly, and in an environment that includes agriculture, reasonable control by humans should be expected.”
“The public has a lot to lose if this program fails, and increasing polarization is the outcome,” Perry said. “While ranchers will be challenged to tolerate wolves, the public must be challenged to tolerate the management of wolves and realize that wolves should be managed like all other wildlife, including the need for appropriate lethal control.”
Julie Shapiro with Keystone Policy Center, a non-partisan group paving the way for wolf reintroduction policy making, explained that there would be two more meetings before the end of the year. The Glenwood meeting was the fifth SAG meeting to date, and the sixth is scheduled for Nov. 15 in Colorado Springs.
“We had planned for November to talk more about livestock,” said Shapiro, “to continue this conversation, including on compensation.”
Some members from the stakeholder group expressed frustration that they have not been as involved in setting upcoming agenda items. One SAG member, Jonathan Proctor, put it this way: “I do hope that, at some point in the near-ish future, the members of the SAG start, at a minimum, providing input for the upcoming agenda topics and focus; not merely just showing up and having CPW decide what we’re talking about next month, and the next month and the next month.” He surmised that, “These are our meetings and we’re looking for collaboration, consensus and focus and we should be eventually setting the agendas, talking about the process and agreeing to the process and how we’re going to make decisions.”
The meeting in December will introduce the SAG team to the Technical Working Group (TWG, pronounced “twig”). The TWG is made up of experts in wildlife biology and members of various government agencies, such as Wyoming and Montana wildlife agencies. “The TWG will contribute expertise towards the development of conservation objectives, management strategies and damage prevention and compensation planning,” reads the wolf engagement website (https://wolfengagementco.org).
“The TWG is meeting on Dec. 14 and we’re meant to get together that evening informally and socially,” Shapiro told SAG members, “then have our meeting together with the TWG on Dec. 15.”
Updates from monthly SAG meetings, as well as agendas for upcoming ones, are available at https://wolfengagementco.org