This holiday season, the howl of wolves will return home to the heart of Colorado. When their paws hit the ground, it will mark a transition point in the long road to restore wolves to the state. After years of advocating for the wolves return, Endangered Species Coalition will continue our efforts to ensure that people in Colorado know that peaceful coexistence with wolves is possible. We will ensure that the stories and information shared about wolves are true, so anti-wildlife special interests cannot promote wolves as a threat to advance their policies of wolf killing like they did in the Northern Rockies.
The Endangered Species Coalition is working on the western slope of Colorado to secure a welcoming home for wolves for the long term. To achieve this we have been meeting with leaders and policy makers to make sure they understand how we got here and what resources are available for ranchers as well as how wolf watching could bring additional sources of revenue to rural areas and outfitters. Alongside that, we are holding information sessions for the public and stakeholder groups to answer questions and make sure people understand just how much has gone into the process and the resources available to those who might be impacted. On the regulatory side, we are also watchdogging the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Commission to make sure they continue to support wolves and the wildlife values of everyone, not just hunters and outfitters. In the upcoming year we will be taking on a project to secure structural changes to help cement funding and wildlife advertising that is reflective of all wildlife interests.
Returning wolves to part of their historical range will restore balance to a natural order that has been missing this key species for over 70 years. We are celebrating this amazing story not only for the fact that wolves will inhabit more of their historic range, but also because Colorado has been able to apply lessons learned over the past 30 years of wolf reintroductions. Endangered Species Coalition recognized the need to collect and share this knowledge and experience with other states and activists. We took the lead in developing what we consider the “gold standard wolf management plan” and an accompanying activist toolkit. Our staff and activists used these tools when engaging with CPW as they developed a wolf management plan for Colorado. After several years of listening and working together with people who will be impacted by and have an interest in wolf reintroduction, CPW released their final wolf management plan. While not perfect, it is a solid plan that incorporates most of the recommendations that are in our gold standard plan. Additionally, the plan is an adaptive management plan, so as CPW considers changes we will continue to advocate for the remaining protections we think should be in place for the protection of Colorado wolves.
We are grateful that the Colorado General Assembly and Governor Jared Polis have both shown leadership by providing the resources to prevent conflicts with wildlife and to ensure livestock growers are well compensated for any livestock that may be killed by wolves. They have done this through allocating general funds and approving a new license plate, set to be released in early 2024, that will help make the implementation of the voter approved reintroduction, successful and fair.
Colorado can be a shining example of wolf reintroduction done right. So far we are on the path to doing this. That said, acceptance of wildlife, especially carnivores cannot be taken for granted. Now more than ever we need to ensure that our efforts are reaching people on the western slope so that we can secure this accomplishment and live side by side with these incredible creatures.