Gray Wolves Delisted; Colorado Voters Approve Reintroduction

Gray Wolves Delisted; Colorado Voters Approve Reintroduction

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced on October 29 that it was delisting gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The total population of gray wolves in the lower 48 states is estimated at more than 6,000 individual animals, far exceeding the combined recovery goals for the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes populations. With the decision, wolf management was returned to the state and tribal wildlife agencies and populations will be monitored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for five years; Mexican wolves are not included in the decision and remain listed under the ESA. The final rule will go into effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

“Today’s action reflects the Trump Administration’s continued commitment to species conservation based on the parameters of the law and the best scientific and commercial data available,” said Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. “After more than 45 years as a listed species, the gray wolf has exceeded all conservation goals for recovery. Today’s announcement simply reflects the determination that this species is neither a threatened nor endangered species based on the specific factors Congress has laid out in the law.”

Less than a week later, the voters in the state of Colorado approved a ballot initiative that will require Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to reintroduce wolves into the western portion of the state. Proposition 114 passed with 50.9 percent of the vote and a difference of about 57,000 individual votes. The votes supporting the amendment were cast largely within the more urban portions of the state; the counties where wolves are proposed to be reintroduced voted against the measure overwhelmingly.

According to CPW, Proposition 114 directs the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to:

  • Develop a plan to reintroduce and manage gray wolves in Colorado by December 31, 2023, on designated lands west of the Continental Divide;
  • Hold statewide hearings about scientific, economic, and social considerations
  • Periodically obtain public input to update the plan; and
  • Use state funds to assist livestock owners in preventing conflicts with gray wolves and pay fair compensation for livestock losses.

The agency’s wolf management webpage reads: “A broad-based agreement on how CPW would manage the species via natural migration resulted from a wolf management working group CPW convened in 2004. In 2016, the Parks and Wildlife Commission considered the issue of wolf reintroduction and affirmed the recommendations from the working group, which supports the presence of wolves in Colorado, with conditions, and via natural migration into the state not through intentional reintroduction. With the passage of Proposition 114 and the announced delisting of the species, CPW would regain management authority of gray wolves in the state from USFWS. CPW will utilize the 2004 working group plan until the new plan required by the ballot initiative is developed.”

November 16, 2020