Garfield County Commission urges wolf hunting season to manage population
In a letter addressing wolf restoration efforts, Garfield County commissioners said they want to see ranchers be compensated for depredation of cattle and for more flexible management programs.
“I think it’s imperative that people know that the three commissioners of Garfield County are very much against this wolf restoration and management plan,” Commissioner Mike Samson said during the Feb. 21 Board of County Commissioners meeting, and included in a Tuesday news release.
“Speaking for myself, I believe that this is very foolish and not a good move for the state of Colorado. It should not be done and is a waste of time, energy, and money. It will cause great destruction to livestock and big game. I wish it never passed, but it did and we’re now looking forward.”
In 2019, the Rocky Mountain Wolf Action Fund, a citizen-led group based in Louisville, created a petition to reintroduce wolves into Colorado. In the November 2020 election, Colorado voters narrowly approved reintroduction effort Proposition 114.
Throughout the past month, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has held meetings — including one in Rifle — asking people for feedback on the Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan.
This prompted Garfield County to submit a comment letter saying they specifically want to see an Endangered Species Act 10(j) rule be in place prior to any reintroduction efforts and that they support changes to compensation ratios for all livestock if found to be attacked by wolves.
The 10(j) designation essentially gives landowners the legal right to manage their lands without being concerned about violating the Endangered Species Act.
The 10(j) rule is designed to “relieve landowner concerns that reintroductions may result in restrictions on the use of private, tribal, or public land,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It allows the FWS to designate a population as “experimental” if released into suitable habitat outside its natural habitat and treating its status as “threatened,” allowing for more flexibility in management programs, the release states.
“We strongly support the 10(j) rule being in place prior to reintroductions,” the county’s letter reads. “If Colorado finds itself in the unfortunate position that lawsuits, injunctions, or other legal strategies are used to stop implementation of the 10(j) rule prior to wolf reintroductions, Colorado must not introduce wolves until the rule has been implemented.”
The letter, which is addressed to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, also notes that the county supports the stakeholder advisory group’s (SAG) recommendation that ranchers be compensated for yearling cattle at the same ratio as calves, if evidence proves that the animals were attacked by wolves, the release states. It was recommended that the term “livestock” include cattle, horses, mules, burros, sheep, lambs, swine, llamas, alpacas, and goats regarding the base compensation plan (100% market value) and that losses of animals cover state and federal lands, as well as private.
The county is supporting impact-based management of wolves that accounts for depredation and harassment of livestock or big game in Colorado, the release states.
The letter also called for a discussion clarifying the role of existing wolves in the state and how those animals affect the reintroduction plans and expressed support for disease and parasite testing of the canines.
The county urged the wildlife commission to consider a wolf-hunting season as a population management tool once the numbers reach 150-200 animals, the release states.
“We have seen activists in wild horse management prevent horse removals when federal lands are decimated, even to the point of hindering sage-grouse populations,” the letter notes. “We fully expect the same strategies to be used to prevent wolf population control.”
The letter was approved unanimously by the board, 3-0. The full letter is available online at garfield-county.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=1772&meta_id=215259.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.