A Letter From Ecopoet Kathleen Willard
Dear Ecopoets, Poets, Environmentalists, the Lovers of Nature and Potential Defenders of the Future Wolves in Colorado,
Many thanks for coming out tonight to learn more about the process of reintroducing the grey wolf into Colorado.
Your input can change the current plan to reintroduce wolves in our state.
Two events happened in 2020, the worst year in human history that gave me hope, caused me joy and provided inspiration and they both had to do with wolves.
In April 2020, Brice Maiurro and Shelsea Ochoa went to their front yard in Denver at 8PM and howled like wolves at the moon and their neighbors howled back.
Soon, all of Colorado joined in. For many more days than I can count, I went outside at 8 PM and howled joining my neighbors and I didn’t feel alone. I felt like I belonged to a community and that Coloradoans cared about each other. I was powerful and healing. Howling like wolves in Colorado charmed the rest of the world and made the news worldwide.
In November 2020, we passed Proposition 114 to reintroduce an endangered species, the grey wolf, back into the Colorado wild. This process has also been watched around the world.
I was hopeful because Coloradoan passed that could rewrite the narrative of wolves in the New West and leave behind the Old West wolf history of extermination, demonization and blood lust for trophy hunting of wolves.
In addition, the passing of Proposition 114 was wonderful environmental news. We were swarming the news about climate change, the Sixth Extinction, and in our state battling climate-change fueled wildfire after wildfire. It was a relief to me that my state was going to welcome an endangered species and be on the cutting edge of new ways to think about the wild.
First, the new law mentioned the words endangered species, which meant no one could kill wolves. Second, this foundational sentence was written in this law: “Grey Wolf” means nongame wildlife of the species Canis Lupus. The law clearly states that there will be no hunting of wolves, and no killing of wolves in our state as the law passed included the words endangered species and non-game species.
Both of these events inspired me to begin research and write my next book of poems, The Wolf Dossier. One main part of this book is reporting on the process and was filled with hope that wolves would find
Fast forward December 2023.
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission ( CPW) released the Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Draft Plan includes both delisting grey wolves from the federal Endangered Species Act and the killing of wolves. The CPW Draft Plan includes three methods to kill wolves in Colorado: recreational hunting, lethal control, and issuing permits for ranchers to kill conflict wolves.
How can recreational hunting be possible when the gray wolf is protected by the federal Endangered Species Act? There is a process the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can use to delist any animal from the Endangered Species Act. The process is called the 10j rule, which gives states the power to manage any endangered species including wolves as they see fit.
That is why there are hunting wolf hunting seasons in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Wisconsin. These states decided on hunting as a wolf management tool. This past year Idaho passed a law to kill 90% of their wolves. Montana passed a law to kill 85% of their wolves. In Wisconsin, one third of their wolf population was killed in only 2 days of their first 2 week hunting season and they had to shut down their wolf hunting season early.
How can this be the future of wolves in our state?
CPW began the process to delist grey wolves in August 2022.
Proposition 114 defines wolves as a non-game species, which makes the hunting of wolves illegal. the current draft of CPW draft plan encourages non-lethal methods to control wolves, but does not require non-lethal methods as a the first line of defense against conflict wolves.
Under the CPW draft plan, hunting wolves will be permitted after 150 wolves live in Colorado for two years, or if the population grows to 400 wolves., whichever comes first. The draft plan calls for the 50 wolves to be reintroduced into our state over the next 3 to 5 years.
CPW proposes that 150 wolves will constitute a sustainable Colorado wolf population. This number relies on an outdated environmental analysis from 1994. Current science reports Colorado’s sustainable wolf population should be 750 wolves.
Ranchers are concerned wolves will kill their livestock. According to USDA statistics, wolves kill 0.009 percent of the livestock in the United States annually. Coloradoans voted to compensate ranchers for all livestock losses due to wolves.
Outfitters and hunters are worried wolves will cause a serious decline of the elk population. An eleven-year study in Montana of the elk in counties with wolf populations commissioned by the governor of Montana found no decline in the elk population.
Proposition 114 requires the CPW to listen ideas proposed by voters at public meetings and make changes before the plan to reintroduce wolves to Colorado is finalized.
Please note the word Draft.
I talked with the director of the Colorado Wolf Project on Monday Feb.13th. Many wolf advocates have been making public comment and he says the CPW is listening.
Call to Action: Stop the Killing of Wolves in Colorado
MAKE A PUBLIC COMMENT
Public Comment ends Feb. 22nd
Colorado Parks and Wildlife is required to revise the Colorado wolf reintroduction plan based on public comment.
From the Office of Governor: Colorado Governor Jared Polis calls on the CPW to solicit and incorporate feedback from the public for the wolf reintroduction plan
“Governor Polis supports CPW’s ongoing work to develop a quality plan, including its extensive efforts to solicit and incorporate feedback from the public prior to finalizing that plan as long as it’s consistent with the law. Whenever the voters or the legislature enact a law, the Governor takes very seriously his responsibility to successfully implement it.”
—-Statement from the Office of Governor Jared Polis
PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES
Today until public comment ends on Feb.22nd. Make your opinion known on the CPW website.
Today until public comment ends on Feb. 22nd. Write the CPW Commissioners directly.
On Feb. 22, attend the last CPW public meeting in Denver to show your support for wolves.
Hunter Education Building
8:30am – 3:00pm, (Subject to change)
Share this information with friends and family. Ask them to make public comment of the CPW website and to share what may happen to Colorado wolves with others.
The CPW Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan is Available Here
“Others countered the (CPW appointed) advisory group was stacked with pro-ranching and pro-hunting members. They say that resulted in a plan that is tilted more toward allowing the killing of wolves instead of allowing the predator to establish its numbers in the state.”
Watch the CPW Commissioners Meetings on YouTube
OVER 3.4 MILLION PEOPLE WATCHED THE COLORADO PARKS AND WILDLIFE (CPW) WILDLIFE COMMISSIONERS WOLF REINTRODUCTION DRAFT PLAN ON THE CPW COMMISSIONERS YOUTUBE CHANNEL
Watch the CPW Meetings here:
The Rocky Mountain Wolf Project
This organization has been working for years on behalf of the wolves. Their website is incredible with lots of information on wolves in the Rockies. They have been in the forefront on behalf of wolves in the Proposition 114 process. Check out their website.
Talking Points from the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center
Darlene Kobobel, founder of the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center and member of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Stakeholders Advisory Group, has detailed information about the CPW Draft Plan to reintroduce wolves to Colorado and alternate ways to reintroduce wolves in a safe and environmentally sound way.
This information can be found in the January 2023 newsletter The Wolf Pack which can be found on The Colorado Wolf and Wildlife website.
Talking Points for Public Comment and Letters from the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, Divide, Colorado
Dear Readers: It is the 11th hour for the draft plan that is now in the hands of the CPW commissioners. As some of you are aware, I was a member of the SAG (Stakeholders Advisory Group) and my job was to bring diverse viewpoints to the group. After a long 18 months of meetings, we finally finished on October 2022. Our group consisted of individuals ranging from ranchers, trappers, and hunters; which compiled as the majority and a few that were pro-wolf. The draft was constructed of phases in developing a plan for the gray wolf reintroduction. There were 3 phases that we could live with and a Phase #4 that we could not. We walked away satisfied that we came to no consensus on Phase #4. See link for the complete draft plan.
Phase #4 is on page iii.. Unfortunately, It is interesting that somehow Phase #4 was put into this draft even after the SAG had recommended that it be tabled until a future time. Below and on the following page is the language of Phase #4.
WOLVES MAY BE RECLASSIFIED AS A GAME SPECIES
Phase 4 (Game species status): “Phase 4” refers to when the wolf may potentially be classified as a game species in the future. Phase 4 is not required under CRS 33-2-105.8. There is no population objective for wolves in this Plan. Long-term wolf management may include reclassification as a big game or furbearer species. Regulated public harvest of wolves by hunting during designated seasons is one tool that may help CPW manage wolf numbers and social acceptance of wolves upon delisting and reclassification as a game species.
Proposition #114 C.R.S. 33-2-105.8 precludes wolves as a non-game species. Recreational killing of wolves must not be considered in any future management scenario. hopefully be to show support by attending the upcoming meetings that will be held this month and next. I do know that thousands of support letters have been sent to the commissioners, however that may not be enough. I attended and spoke at the first public meeting on the January 19th meeting in Colorado Springs at Cheyenne Mountain Resort. I closed the Center down that day to have my entire staff attend, speak and show support for our wolves. I will be closing the Center again for the final meeting in Denver on February 22nd, 2023 so we can make another stand for what we believe in and for fairness to be amended in this final plan.
There are many things in this plan that are not wolf friendly if you glance though this draft, but our main concern is Phase #4. Most of this draft lays heavy on compensation for ranchers and lethal take of wolves with very little about conflict management and non-lethal tools. There are no incentives or any language stronger than it is “encouraged”. In addition to this is the small number of wolves that are projected to be reintroduced. We feel that there is not much consideration for things that could occur such as poaching, wolves getting hit by cars, hunting mortalities, mange and more.
Lastly, Phases 1 and 2 have these limited protections. In Phases 1 and 2, a limited duration permit for lethal take may be issued to a livestock owner or agent of the livestock owner on private or public land. A permit is required under state law (CRS 33-2-106.4). Non-lethal conflict mitigation measures will be considered prior to issuance of any lethal take permit. In Phase 3, the same permitting requirements exist. Further coordination with Colorado Department of Agriculture will be required as well per Colo. Rev. Stat. § 35-40-101(4).
I am reaching out because we worked so hard to have this historic event for the return of the Gray wolf to be upon Colorado’s landscape after over 80 years of being absent due to being exterminated and now we feel that we have to fight again just to keep them safe. I am asking for anyone who cares about wolves to help me help the wolves. Below is information where you can speak up for wolves. There are opportunities for people who live in Colorado and people who are out of state. For people who want to speak at the meetings and for people who can just show up and stand in solidarity. After February 22nd, we are done and it is out of our hands. The commissioners are the decision makers and the more people who can voice their thoughts in support, shows strength from the people. Just close your eyes and think of why you have a love in your heart for wolves. That is why you need to help protect them.
Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center
SUGGESTED TALKING POINTS from Darlene Kobobel
Gray wolves can bring about immensely positive ecological, economic and social opportunities for Coloradans. But these positive effects only occur when wolf family groups are intact and not disrupted by trophy hunting or lethal management.
- No trophy hunting and no trapping or snaring, ever. Proposition 114 (statue 33-2-105.8) directs that wolves remain classified as a non-game species in Colorado, meaning no recreational trophy hunting, trapping or snaring. Respect the vote of the people.
- Wolves need a minimum population of 750 individuals distributed across at least 10 of 13 wolf pack recovery zones on Colorado’s West Slope. A self-sustaining wolf population requires a minimum of 750 wolves. CPW’s plan for wolves to lose protected status when there are only 150- 200 anywhere in Colorado is a plan for failure – these numbers rely on outdated environmental analysis from the Northern Rockies in 1994. Without protected status, wolves are more likely to be killed and their populations decline.
- Coexistence strategies that prevent and reduce conflict between livestock and wolves should be required on public lands. Non-lethal livestock-wolf coexistence strategies are both more effective and ethical than lethal strategies.
- Compensation for livestock loss should not incentivize killing wolves and implementation of non- lethal coexistence measures should be a prerequisite for compensation for livestock loss. But CPW’s plan does not include any requirement for livestock owners to implement coexistence measures to be eligible for compensation for lost animals.
- Wolves should be safe on public lands and not subject to being killed. Public lands provide the last refuge for biodiversity – as biodiversity crashes across the world, those lands and species, especially keystone carnivores such as wolves which enhance biodiversity, must be protected.
- A wolf-killing loophole needs to be closed. Currently CPW’s plan states that “Any employee or agent of CPW or USFWS or appropriate state or federal or tribal agency, who is designated in writing, when acting in the course of official duties may take a wolf from the wild if such actions [are]…to avoid conflict with human activities.” This language opens wolf killing to any reason and undermines any wolf protections.