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The working draft of the Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan was released for consideration by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission last Friday, December 9, 2022. This comes as a result of voters narrowly approving Ballot Initiative 114 in 2020, which mandates the restoration of gray wolves in Colorado.
The plan allows for fair market-level compensation to livestock producers who have sustained a documented loss of livestock or livestock guard dogs due to wolves. It further provides an option to compensate for indirect losses due to harassment and stress to livestock after a documented death loss. Livestock owners could also be eligible for the issuance of a permit for the lethal taking of a chronically depredating pack or wolf.
However, RMFU sees a number of gaps in the current plan. There is not a clear, sustainable funding mechanism for compensation due to livestock predation, and it does not consider the true costs of conflict prevention and livestock protection. Impacts of stress to livestock and verification methods are overly complicated, including challenges of accessing available veterinarians and associated costs. Also, carcass disposal costs are not considered, and compensation is inadequate for long-term costs due to loss of seedstock genetics. Livestock producers operate on a patchwork of federal, state and private lands, and they need to be able to claim damages no matter where the livestock predation occurs. Finally, the requirement of historical record-keeping could hurt beginning ranchers and/or those newly managing a parcel of land.
“We appreciate attempts made in the draft plan to consider the needs of those who will be directly impacted by wolf reintroduction, but we are concerned that the current framework that requires the injured party to bear the burden of proof through documentation and record-keeping would be a significant barrier to livestock producers in seeking relief from depredation,” says Chad Franke, RMFU President. “Ultimately, our members do not support wildlife management by ballot initiative and ask for a plan that reflects evidence-based management strategies. We encourage the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to create flexibility for equitable compensation due to wolf predation, including stress to livestock. The system should be designed to reflect the understanding that wolf reintroduction will disproportionality injure individual ranchers and the communities that depend on revenue from ranching and hunting. Every effort should be made to offset those impacts in a fair, accessible manner considering all costs to a producer.”
RMFU will be releasing more detailed comments on the Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan draft later this month and will be engaging with members to ensure that their concerns are being expressed and that they are aware of avenues to make their voices heard on this issue.
Are you an RMFU member and would you like to share your story about this with us?
Submit here: Contact Us – Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (rmfu.org)
See the full draft plan here: DRAFT-CO-Wolf-Plan.pdf (state.co.us)
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission has been directed through statute to take the steps necessary to begin the restoration of gray wolves in Colorado west of the Continental Divide no later than December 31, 2023, and will be holding listening sessions and accepting public comment throughout the year.
Follow this link to access the schedule for CPW meetings and ways to submit public comments:
Colorado Parks & Wildlife – Submit Public Comments (state.co.us)
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union is a general farm organization whose 20,000 member families live and work in hometown communities across Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming.
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