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Agricultural Organizations Urge Governor Polis to Sign Bills Related to Wolf Reintroduction
Two critical bills governing the reintroduction of wolves on the Western Slope were approved by the General Assembly in the final days of the legislative session and are now awaiting Governor Jared Polis’s signature. The measures are considered essential to the implementation of Proposition 114, which was narrowly approved by voters in 2020.
SB23-255 sponsored by Senator Dylan Roberts (D-Avon), Senator Perry Will (R-Rifle), Speaker of the House Julie McCluskie (D-Dillon), and Representative Marc Catlin (R-Montrose), establishes the fund that will be used to compensate ranchers when their livestock or working animals are killed or injured due to wolf depredation. In addition to creating the compensation fund and securing initial funding to compensate livestock owners for losses due to wolves, Senate Bill 255 requires an annual report to the legislature which could be used for determining compensation funding levels in the future.
Senate Bill 256, Sponsored by Representative Meghan Lukens (D-Steamboat Springs), Representative Matt Soper (R-Delta), Senator Dylan Roberts (D-Avon), and Senator Perry Will (R-Rifle), requires a 10(j) Rule, a provision of the federal Endangered Species Act, to be in place prior to introduction of wolves. Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has requested the development of a 10(j) Rule in order to provide the state the flexibility and tools necessary to manage the wolf population, but the Rule isn’t expected to be finalized until at least December of this year. Without the rule the state would not be able to protect livestock from depredation by wolves. No other state has reintroduced wolves without a 10(j) Rule in place.
Proposition 114 states, “restoration of the gray wolf to the state must be designed to resolve conflicts with persons engaged in ranching and farming in the state.” The proposition also requires that the state fairly compensate ranchers for “any losses of livestock caused by gray wolves.” It was these two requirements in Proposition 114 that legislators from the Western Slope had in mind when crafting SB23-255 and SB23-256.
Numerous agricultural organizations worked with legislators to pass both measures to ensure livestock producers on the Western Slope are compensated for their losses and that the 10(j) Rule provides the necessary tools to prevent and resolve conflicts resulting from wolf reintroduction, as required in Proposition 114.
Chad Franke, President of Rocky Mountain Farmers Union said, “With the passage of SB23-255, the state will live up to its responsibility to fairly compensate ranchers for losses incurred due to wolf depredation and any associated veterinary costs from wolf attacks on livestock and working animals. We are grateful to the sponsors that fought to ensure that ranchers are taken care of, since they will be impacted the most by reintroduction of wolves in Colorado.”
“In order to mitigate the harm that will inevitably follow the reintroduction of wolves in a Colorado, the state must have the capability to work in tandem with US Fish and Wildlife. We are incredibly thankful to the sponsors of SB23-256 for ensuring that the state has a 10(j) rule in place before reintroduction. We strongly urge Governor Polis to sign this bill into law to protect the livestock and working animals that are the livelihoods of ranchers on the Western Slope,” Franke continued.
“We are thankful for the sponsors who championed these bills. This legislation gives ranchers the necessary tools they need to manage the threats that wolf introduction poses to their livestock,” said Carlyle Currier, Colorado Farm Bureau president. “Colorado voters passed the wolf initiative with the narrowest of margins, but they did it with the knowledge that ranchers must be compensated for their losses and have the ability to manage problem wolves. We are hopeful that the Governor will follow the will of the legislature and sign these bills into law.”
Hannah Cranor Kersting, President of the Gunnison County Stockgrowers Association noted that “GCSA is excited that SB 255 and SB 256 passed the House and Senate with strong bipartisan support. We urge Governor Polis to sign both bills so that CPW can properly implement the Wolf Management Plan that was developed with strong citizen input and consensus.”
“Thank you to the sponsors of these bills for advocating for Colorado’s livestock producers. These bills work to ensure there are proper tools and resources to manage gray wolves before and during their introduction and provide producers certainty and management flexibility to protect their livestock and livelihoods,” said Philip Anderson, President of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association.
While it is expected that Governor Polis will sign Senate Bill 255 to establish the depredation compensation fund, it is less certain that he will sign Senate Bill 256, the bill requiring the 10(j) rule be in place before reintroduction occurs. Livestock producers from across the State are calling on Governor Polis to sign both measures into law.
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