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Media Releases, Legislative News, Agricultural Updates
For Immediate Release: 5-16-2023
Contact: Bob Kjelland 970.397.0039
“We are disappointed that Governor Jared Polis has vetoed SB23-256—Management of Gray Wolves Reintroduction. This bipartisan bill was crafted to ensure that the state’s investment of $1 million to expedite the 10(j) determination doesn’t go to waste,” says Chad Franke, president of Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. “While we are disappointed in the Governor for vetoing this bill, we would still like to share our deepest gratitude to the legislators from the Western Slope, particularly Representative Meghan Lukens, Representative Matt Soper, Senator Dylan Roberts, and Senator Perry Will, that fought so hard to get this bill within inches of the finish line,” Franke continued.
This bill would not have halted the reintroduction of wolves in Colorado. It simply would have required that the 10(j) ruling by US Fish and Wildlife be in place prior to the reintroduction. The state has demonstrated the importance of the 10(j) rule in testimony and by allocating $1 million last year to fast track the environmental impact study that’s required for the 10(j) ruling. If they move forward with the reintroduction prior to the 10(j) rule, they will have wasted the funds appropriated to fast track the analysis and the countless hours spent on the Wolf Management Plan. Without this rule, the management of wolves in Colorado falls on US Fish and Wildlife due to their current endangered status under the Endangered Species Act. “If wolves are reintroduced prior to the US Fish and Wildlife determination, the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife will lose the tools it needs to manage the population of reintroduced wolves and the damage they will bring with them,” Franke continued.
If the federal government has the rule in place by mid-December, as the Department of Natural Resources has continually asserted, this bill would not have made an impact on the wolf reintroduction. SB23-256 was a backstop in case some unforeseen circumstances delayed this ruling past mid-December to ensure that the state would wait until the ruling was put in place before reintroducing wolves. If the state introduces wolves prior to the rule being put in place, the state will not have the authority to manage the wolf population.
No one would have been negatively affected by allowing SB23-256 to become law. Wolves would still have been reintroduced and ranchers would be able to work with the state to manage a chronically depredating wolf or pack of wolves to protect their livestock. By vetoing the bill, Governor Polis risks discarding the work of so many in putting the Wolf Management Plan together. If wolves are reintroduced prior to the 10(j) determination, the Plan cannot be followed, putting the livelihoods of ranchers on the Western Slope in danger.
The Department of Natural Resources and most groups that testified on SB23-256 all agreed that the 10(j) rule is important and that they wish for it to be in place prior to reintroduction, and, again, the Colorado General Assembly authorized $1 million to expedite this process. The Governor has made similar statements supporting the 10(j) rule and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife published a letter shortly before the passage of this bill discussing the importance of the 10(j) rule for a successful reintroduction. It’s important to note that a lot of stakeholding went into this bill and into the Wolf Management Plan, but large portions of the plan would be ineffective if the state reintroduces wolves without the 10(j) rule.
The action of vetoing this bill also has the potential to further drive a wedge between rural and urban communities, whereas allowing SB23-256 to become law would have demonstrated to the rural communities that will be affected the most by the reintroduction of wolves that the state is willing to live up to its responsibility to protect their livelihoods while also adhering to the will of the voters in urban areas where most of the votes in favor of Proposition 114 were cast. “When a slim majority of voters passed Proposition 114, the state became obligated to compensate and protect those who make their living in agriculture on the Western Slope, and by vetoing this bill, Governor Polis has potentially failed to make the state live up to that responsibility,” said Franke.
“We are hopeful that the US Fish and Wildlife will complete the expedited 10(j) determination prior to reintroduction but are disappointed that Governor Polis has failed to look out for those most at risk with the reintroduction, “concluded Franke.
Rocky Mountain Farmers Union is a general farm organization whose 15,000 member families live in Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming.
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