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CPW to review first draft of wolf management plan

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Colorado’s Wolf Restoration and Management Plan to restore gray wolves in the state by the end of 2023 is on track, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). Meanwhile, back home, local producers are bracing for what the reality may be once the federally endangered species is reintroduced.

On Nov. 17, the Keystone Policy Center — a contracted company tasked with managing stakeholder input and the public opinion process — presented the final summary of recommendations from the Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG) to the CPW Commission. The Technical Working Group (TWG), experts tasked with providing science and experiential feedback, also submitted a final report.

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The SAG is made up of a diverse group of stakeholders, from hunters to conservation advocates, who met monthly for nearly a year and a half to hash out differences and reach some compromise.

“This charge may have seemed impossible in a world of often polarized opinions. Over the course of 15 months of relationship building, difficult conversations and information gathering, the SAG ultimately reached consensus on a wide range of important issues,” the introduction to the report reads. “Throughout, the SAG fostered civil discussion and understanding across differences, often resulting in strong convergence even on the most contentious issues.”

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One of the more contentious subjects is the use of lethal control, specifically when livestock is at risk. This is covered in the SAG’s final summary under the subhead “Report on Impact-based Management Recommendations.”

“Proactive and reactive nonlethal conflict minimization should be encouraged and explored as a first line of defense, with consideration of individual and community-level approaches,” the recommendation states. It continues, “Lethal management should not generally be a first line of defense, however, there may be certain conditions under which lethal take may be used first to support effective conflict management.”

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Other subjects broached in the SAG’s final summary included: compensation for livestock lost to wolf depredation, hazing of wolves, ungulate management, funding and more.

Notably, in February, a federal court order relisted gray wolves as an endangered species. Now, however, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service is working to designate Colorado’s incoming “experimental” wolf population under 10(j) of the Endangered Species Act, which would provide management flexibility for wolves that are in the state.

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Wolf drop-off locations have not yet been determined, however, during a CPW commission meeting in September, Eric Odell, CPW’s species conservation program manager, presented a map of Colorado depicting which areas are ecologically suitable and which would pose a high risk of conflict.

By statute, all releases will happen west of the Continental Divide. Based on recommendations from the TWG, there will likely be a 60-mile buffer between release areas and neighboring states and tribal lands. This places parts of Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle counties within a considered boundary for reintroduction.

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CPW staff is preparing a first draft of the management plan to present to the commission on Dec. 9 during a virtual meeting. The draft plan will also be available online for public review at that time. Subsequently, there will be five public engagement opportunities around the state, including in Rifle on Feb. 7. Public comment will be open online from Dec. 9 to Feb. 22, 2023. Visit www.wolfengagementco.org to review the SAG and TWG’s final recommendations and to stay up to date.

Local producers
On Nov. 10, the Holy Cross Cattlemen’s Association organized an informative presentation and update for local producers at Colorado Mountain College’s Rifle campus.

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“After the August meeting in Glenwood, as our area is in the center of the proposed introduction area map … I offered to host a meeting on behalf of Holy Cross Cattlemen’s Association,” Ginny Harrington, Holy Cross Cattlemen Association’s membership chairperson, told The Sopris Sun.

A few SAG members were among the panel, including Renee Deal, a sheep rancher from Somerset, Lenny Klinglesmith, a cattle producer from Meeker, and Pitkin County Commissioner Francie Jacober.

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Harrington noted, in part, that “Livestock producers are very concerned about fair compensation both for direct and indirect losses, and the allowance of lethal methods for problem wolves.”

While CPW did not have a part in organizing the meeting, area wildlife manager Matt Yamashita was present. Yamashita was accompanied by Adam Baca, who was recently hired as CPW’s first wolf conflict coordinator.

“There are so many pressures on ranchers and farmers and far too many acres have been lost to development,” said Harrington. “We need to find ways to address the challenges we face. The introduction of wolves is a big challenge.”

Tags: #Colorado Parks and Wildlife #CPW #Ginny Harrington #Holy Cross Cattlemen’s Association #livestock #ranching #wolf reintroduction #wolves
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