Media Releases, Legislative News, Agricultural Updates
April 6, 2023
As we know, voters in Colorado narrowly passed Proposition 114 in 2020, which approved the reintroduction of wolves on the Western slope. While our policy is clear that we do not support wildlife management by – ballot initiative as the vehicle for wolf reintroduction, we are now dealing with the reality that wolves will be in the state in the near future. The reintroduction of wolves is a major concern for Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and the ranchers that we represent, particularly because of the inevitable disproportionate impact of individual ranching operations due to this reintroduction. In addition to actively participating in the Wolf Restoration and Management Plan that the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Commission is crafting, we are currently advocating for legislation in the Colorado General Assembly to guarantee that ranchers are fairly compensated for losses they incur, as well as ensuring that the state has all the tools necessary to manage the wolf population effectively.
As mentioned in the Wolves on the Horizon piece that the latest issue of the Union Farmer included, one of our major concerns related to the Wolf Restoration and Management Plan was the lack of a plan for sustained funding for compensation for depredation and production losses (lower weaning weights, lower pregnancy rates, etc.). Luckily, SB23-255—Wolf Depredation Compensation Fund is addressing this. As introduced, the bill would only have paid for depredation and veterinary bills related to a wolf attack. We pushed for the legislation to allow the fund to include production losses. Also, as the bill is written, any funds left over at the end of the fiscal year would revert to the Wildlife Cash Fund with CPW. We have advocated for these funds to be earmarked for wolf/livestock conflict minimization efforts so that ranchers can offset the costs related to prevention. Previously, the funds that reverted could have been used by CPW for any program, including those not related to aiding ranchers with the burden associated with the wolf reintroduction.
SB23-255 – Wolf Depredation Compensation Fund, passed the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee unanimously on March 30th. The bill awaits a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee before it heads to the Senate floor for a vote. We are hopeful that this bill will pass the Senate and move to the House in the next week or two. The $350,000 fund will be pivotal to ensuring that ranchers receive fair and just compensation for depredation and production losses that we are certain will happen due to the reintroduction of wolves. It is important to note that the framework we worked out can be adjusted each year depending on the impacts of wolf reintroduction.
The other bill that we are actively advocating for is SB23-256—Management of Gray Wolves Reintroduction. This bill would ensure that CPW has all of the necessary tools to manage the wolf population upon reintroduction. One of the two main components would need to be completed before the reintroduction of wolves could occur. It requires that the 10(j) Rule be adopted by the United States Secretary of the Interior before reintroduction. The second component requires an environmental impact study on the impact on federal lands by reintroducing before wolves are placed on the ground. This bill also passed the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on March 30th.
It is imperative that the ruling on the 10(j) Rule happen prior to the reintroduction of wolves in Colorado. Since wolves are currently listed as an endangered species, this rule would allow the wolves introduced into Colorado to be listed as an experimental population, which means that the population in the state is not crucial to the species’ survival. If the 10(j) Rule were in place, like it was when wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone, the state would have more tools available to them to manage the population effectively. This is because the wolves in Colorado would be treated as a threatened species instead of an endangered species. Without the rule in place, the state would have to defer to federal authorities to manage the wolf population, which would effectively nullify the Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan. This would be detrimental to minimizing conflicts between the wolves, livestock, and working animals.
The second component of the bill would require an environmental impact study on the impact on federal lands concerning the reintroduction of wolves. While wolf proponents have argued that reintroduced wolves will only be on state and private land, it is common knowledge that wolves migrate and can cover large areas of land. Therefore, it is hard to imagine that wolves will not make their way onto the extensive federal lands naturally located in western Colorado. It is important to know the impacts on native species already on federal lands, including the endangered sage grouse. Wolves will most certainly have a sizable impact on the ecosystems on federal land, which is why it is important to understand this before reintroduction.
We are doing everything we can to ensure that when wolves are reintroduced, ranchers are prepared and will have access to fair and just compensation for impacts from wolves. It is also vital to hear from you about the concerns that you have about the reintroduction so that when we can accurately relay your concerns. We will continue to engage until the Wolf Restoration and Management Plan is final and to work with legislators as we continue to fight for Colorado ranchers.
If you have any concerns, stories, questions, or anything else related to this issue that you would like to share, please contact Tyler Garrett, RMFU Director of Government Relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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