Colorado wolves

Male wolf 2101, right, with a gray coat and male wolf 2301, left, with a black coat are pictured.

As we all remember, Colorado voters unfortunately passed Proposition 114 in November of 2020 to require the reintroduction of wolves into our state. Then, to add insult to injury for our agricultural community, wolves were placed on the Endangered Species List in February of 2022.

We are happy to see state Sens. Dylan Roberts and Perry Will have introduced two bills that will offer crucial protections for our ranchers and help to make the process of reintroducing wolves a less invasive process. Senate Bill 23-255 (Wolf Depredation Compensation Fund) will make an appropriation to offer compensation for livestock that are injured or killed by a gray wolf.

The State was made responsible for management of this wolf reintroduction, thus the State must be held accountable when damages are accrued as a result of wolf depredation.

Senate Bill 23-256 (Management Of Gray Wolves Reintroduction) sets the prerequisites that wolf reintroduction cannot happen until the U.S. Department of Interior grants a 10J Rule AND an analysis of the associated environmental impacts is completed in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.

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Thankfully, the Endangered Species Act provides an important tool, the 10J Rule, to help facilitate the reintroduction of threatened and endangered species, like wolves. A “10J Rule” is where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may designate a population of a listed species as experimental, which then allows for special allowances for groups like private landowners. We should not criminalize our livestock producers for actively protecting their livestock from wolves. The 10J Rule would protect our ranchers who may need to kill a wolf that is attacking their cattle, especially around calving time when the mother and baby are most vulnerable.

Contrary to those opposed to these bills, SB23-255 or SB23-256 do not alter the Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s wolf management plan, they do not allow for the recreational hunting of wolves, and they do not ignore the will of the Coloradans who voted in November 2022. Rather, these two bills are looking at being pro-active in addressing the issues that will occur as a result of Proposition 114, which has been codified as section 33-2-105.8 CRS.

One of the jobs of the Colorado state legislature is to mitigate problems created from either current statute and/or changing situations happening in our state, which is what both SB23-255 and SB23-256 will do and why we are eager to be co-sponsors.

State Sens. Byron Pelton (R-Sterling) and Rod Pelton (R-Cheyenne Wells)

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