Intense timber wolf (Canis lupus) sits under a pine tree.

County pens comment letter on wolf reintroduction

States that Endangered Species Act 10(j) rule must be in place prior to any action

February 28, 2023

Garfield County has submitted a comment letter on the draft Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan supporting “impact-based management goals, among other recommendations. The county advised that an Endangered Species Act 10(j) rule must be in place prior to any reintroduction efforts and supports changes to compensation ratios for all livestock if found to be attacked by wolves.

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.

“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 legals 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.”

“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,” said Commissioner Mike Samson. “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.”

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. 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 percent 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 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.

“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.