Work groups outline funding for wolf reintroduction on the Western Slope

Working groups assigned to help with the process of reintroducing wolves on the Western Slope are one step closer to producing a draft to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission.
Colorado State University/Courtesy photo

State leaders gathered Friday, July 22, to discuss the next steps of relocating wolves back to Colorado, and this time, funding and management were on the table.

Keystone Policy Center has been facilitating the process as a third-party, collaborating with a stakeholder advisory group and a technical working group. Julie Shapiro, natural resources center director for Keystone Policy Center, said that the stakeholder group had come to a consensus on three potential funding sources for the reintroduction. Funding would go toward various aspects of the process besides just the introduction itself. Shapiro said that could include staffing, logistics, conflict management, compensation and outreach.

“The first is annual appropriations from the Colorado State Legislature with a preliminary estimate of up to $3 million annually for funding directly related expenses, recognizing that there are other potential adjacent or related expenses that may not be captured in that estimate,” Shapiro said. “Secondly, the group recommends that a (Colorado Parks and Wildlife) wolf cash fund or wolf-specific account be established to provide long-term sustainable funding seeded by the state Legislature and supported by a variety of private and public funding sources to provide a mechanism for funding over time. It doesn’t rely strictly on annual appropriations.”

Shapiro said the third recommendation is an external endowment fund that will be managed and administered separately, but with input from parks and wildlife to specifically support nonlethal aspects of wealth management.

By next spring, the parks and wildlife commission is expected to receive draft plans to potentially vote on. Based on legislation approved in 2020, wolves will be reintroduced on the Western Slope by the end of 2023. Though no specific areas have been released about where the wolves will be placed, it is expected that they could move or relocate across the region. 

“As each of the groups wraps up its deliberations in the coming months, we’re going to be working to help them develop a final kind of high-level executive summary report of their recommendations,” Shapiro said. 

Last week, an alternate reintroduction plan was released by a group of conservation organizations. The groups expressed frustration in the current public comment process and created its own comprehensive version of reintroduction, including where wolf packs could have adequate habitat zones. Summit County was shaded as part of that zone. Since the last meeting of the commissioners, there were 157 public comments submitted. 

Eric Odell, species conservation program manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said that plans are still developing on the management side of reintroduction. He emphasized that management should not be considered synonymous with lethal control. 

“Fundamentally, impact-based management means that if wolves are causing problems, (you should) manage to resolve the problem,” he said. “When negative impacts occur, that should be addressed on a case-by-case basis utilizing a combination of appropriate management tools, including education, nonlethal conflict minimization, lethal take of wolves and damage payments. An impact-based management approach recognizes that there are both positive and negative aspects to having wolves in the state and implementing impact-based management.”

Advisory groups reached a consensus about potential management when it comes to conflicts, including when to haze wolves — ways of scaring wolves away without injury — to ones that may include injuring a wolf but not killing it. The group had a consensus of the allowance of lethal control by state and federal agents and by producers or their agents for wolves caught in the act of “biting, wounding, grasping or killing livestock or working dogs.”

“We’re very thankful for the thoughtful, very passionate input they have shared with us over the last 14, 15 months,” Odell said.

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