First round of public comment reveals divide over Colorado’s gray wolf reintroduction is still wide |

First round of public comment reveals divide over Colorado’s gray wolf reintroduction is still wide

Colorado wildlife commissioners heard from ranchers and wildlife advocates hoping to influence the draft plan for bringing wolves back to the Western Slope.

Joshua Perry
The Colorado Sun
Colorado Parks and Wildlife created this graphic to help people distinguish between wolves and coyotes.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife/Courtesy

Tension over plans to bring gray wolves back to Colorado has been high since a ballot initiative narrowly passed two years ago directing wildlife officials to restore a predator population that had been absent for nearly a century. And while the first public comment session on the state’s draft Wolf Restoration and Management Plan Thursday made the split in opinion a bit narrower, it also showed how much ground still must be covered before work begins to reintroduce wolves west of the Continental Divide.

The draft plan, slated to begin implementation 2024, aims to achieve the successful recovery of the gray wolf in Colorado by introducing 30 to 50 wolves over 3 to 5 years. However, the social and economic consequences of the plan have made it a controversial topic across the state. At this stage, adjustments to the plan can still be made. Four more public comment hearings will be held until Feb. 22, and then the plan will be approved at a CPW meeting in Glenwood Springs on May 3 and 4.

The CPW Commission heard first from the Stakeholder Advisory Group, a body of volunteers representing a diverse set of Coloradan perspectives, who met from June 2021 to August 2022 to develop a set of recommendations for the draft plan. SAG Member Renee Deal, a sheep rancher and public lands outfitter from Somerset, said she believes the group reached a consensus that can work for everyone affected by reintroduction.

“None of us walked away from this completely satisfied with what we came up with,” she said. “But I think that speaks to the fact that it was a true compromise.”

Few members of the public seemed to be satisfied with the state of the plan either. Equal numbers of livestock owners and wildlife advocates spoke out on the restoration plan at Thursday’s meeting.

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