Conservationists and wildlife advocates propose Colorado wolf restoration plan
DENVER – A group of 14 conservation and wildlife organizations, led by WildEarth Guardians, today presented their “Colorado Wolf Restoration Planas a science-based proposal to guide the reintroduction and recovery of the wolf in Colorado following the passage of Proposition 114 in 2020. The plan focuses on creating tremendously positive ecological, economic, and social opportunities for Coloradans and the Colorado landscapes that have lacked wolves for so long by ensuring a robust, self-sustaining wolf population across the entire West Slope.
“Colorado needs a plan that focuses on wolf restoration, not wolf ‘management’,” said Lindsay Larris, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. “WildEarth Guardians saw the need to develop a plan that prioritizes the restoration of a self-sustaining wolf population in Colorado and recognizes that human and wildlife interests can co-exist. Colorado has an incredible opportunity to change the narrative treatment of wolves across the West, and we wanted to show what was possible with this plan.
“Supporting a plan that sees the wolf as a symbiotic spirit to the needs of ecology is essential for balancing soil systems across prairies and mountains,” said Nancy Rae Kochis-Clark, founder of Herbal Gardens Wellness. “At Herbal Gardens Wellness, we believe in balancing our health as it relates to integrative living of traditional health and environmental stewardship models.”
“The restoration of this iconic animal to the wild places of Colorado is a remarkable conservation achievement, and something Coloradians can truly be proud of,” said Dillon Hanson-Ahumada, Denver-based Southern Rockies representative for the Endangered Species Coalition. “The principles of this plan will allow wolves to move and co-exist in Colorado’s many areas of suitable habitat.”
Proposition 114 calls for the establishment and maintenance of a “self-sustaining” population of gray wolves in part to “help restore a critical balance in nature.” The plan includes four main elements that are essential to any wolf restoration effort: reintroduction areas, a population goal, management guidelines, and compensation considerations.
Based on large blocks of suitable habitat, connectivity and the presence of prey, the plan identifies 12 optimal areas for initial wolf reintroductions. The zones are scattered throughout the West Slope and would ensure that the benefits of wolves are spread throughout Colorado, as was the intent of Proposition 114.
“Colorado deserves a wolf management plan that maximizes the successful recovery of wolves, helping them take their rightful place as an essential part of mountain ecosystems,” said Erik Molvar, executive director of the Western Watersheds Project. . “Science must form the foundation of wolf restoration in Colorado, so that future decisions are guided by a sound framework of scientific knowledge, rather than the whims of political whims.”
At the heart of the plan is a strong population goal for Colorado’s wolves. The best available science on self-sustaining populations and West Slope carrying capacity modeling for wolves both indicate a minimum population of 150 packs or about 750 wolves. The plan is clear that 750 wolves is not a cap, but a minimum requirement for the state’s future delisting from “threatened” to “non-game” status.
Prevention and compensation of livestock losses are also major elements of the plan. Non-lethal deterrents and conflict minimization tactics are encouraged, and in some cases required, for state assistance. The plan clearly defines parameters that encourage coexistence and take into account the inevitability of some conflict and livestock loss.
“This plan is critical to ensuring Colorado gets the wolves back the right way, the first time around,” said Michelle Lute, Ph.D. in wolf conservation and director of carnivore conservation for the Coyote Project. “All other wolf recovery efforts are mired in controversy because ineffective and counterproductive lethal methods are permitted. Non-lethal tools allow wolf populations to reach ecologically efficient densities and coexist with humans and wildlife. pets.
“Wolves have a huge impact on biodiversity and ecosystem health. By reducing overbrowsing by elk and deer, wolves improve the quality of riparian habitat, which benefits beavers, songbirds, amphibians and fish,” said Johanna Hamburger, Program Director and Senior Counsel. of Terrestrial Wildlife from the Animal Welfare Institute. “The plan maps out a way forward that would restore balance to the landscapes on the western slope.”
“Coloradoans need to know that killing wolves is not the best course of action,” said Andrea Zaccardi, legal director of the carnivore conservation program at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Our alternative wolf restoration plan offers common sense rules to prevent conflicts between livestock and wolves. This encourages livestock owners to take responsibility for their deceased livestock, which can attract wolves to vulnerable cattle and sheep. It also prohibits the killing of wolves to prey on livestock on public lands we all share.
“Colorado needs wolves. Wolves have evolved with our native wildlife and therefore these species and the habitats they depend on need these key carnivores to maintain their healthy populations,” said Delia G. Malone, Colorado Sierra Wildlife Chair. Club. “But wolves can only fulfill their ecological role if their family groups are intact and undisturbed by human persecution. Where wolves are protected from recreational killing and lethal control, their benefits reach into enhancing biodiversity, improving climate resilience, and even enriching our own lives. Wolves are part of our natural heritage, a legacy for current and future generations of Coloradans, but only if we choose to change our relationship with the land and its native species from one of dominance to one of stewardship. Our vision of Colorado as a sustainable model of gray wolf stewardship can be realized with this restoration plan.
The plan will be delivered to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commissioners before their July 21 meeting in Edwards, Colorado. Endorsing organizations hope the plan will be evaluated as a viable way to fulfill the intent and text of Proposition 114.
WildEarth Guardians, the Colorado Sierra Club, and the Humane Society of the United States are hosting a webinar to discuss the plan on Tuesday, July 19 at 12 p.m. MDT. Details and registration here: https://guardiansaction.org/COWolfWebinar