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Parks and Wildlife Commission Chooses Politics over Science

Adopts Deeply Flawed Resolution Opposing Mexican Wolf Recovery in Colorado

Additional contact:

Taylor Jones, (720) 443-2615, tjones@wildearthguardians.org     

 


 

Denver, CO – Over 100 activists rallied in support of wolves’ return to Colorado prior to the state Parks and Wildlife Commission’s disappointing approval of an anti-wolf resolution that voices opposition to the reintroduction of critically endangered Mexican wolves to the state.

The resolution ignores not only the best science available indicating that Colorado provides superb habitat for wolves, and the Colorado Gray Wolf Feasibility Study sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which concluded Colorado can support over 1,100 wolves, but also the voices of the majority of Coloradans who want to see wolves return to the state. Over seventy percent of Colorado residents supported returning wolves in 1994, according to a survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A 2013 survey commissioned by Defenders of Wildlife shows the same large majority of Coloradans support returning wolves today.

“The Commission’s resolution is scientifically baseless, showing the state is more concerned with politics than the health of the environment,” said Kelly Nokes, carnivore campaign lead with WildEarth Guardians. “The Commission should not ignore science and the overwhelming majority of Coloradans who favor welcoming wolves home to the state to appease politically powerful minority interests spouting disproven anti-wolf rhetoric.”

Driven to near extinction by the 1920s, Mexican wolves were given federal protections under the Endangered Species Act in 1976. Also known as “lobos,” this subspecies of the gray wolf is struggling to make a comeback, with recovery efforts focused primarily on a captive-bred reintroduction program. At last official count, only 109 Mexican wolves were roaming the wilds of New Mexico and Arizona, and the population desperately needs to expand its range to recover. Today’s resolution falsely encourages the use of arbitrary political boundaries, such as the Colorado state line, rather than the species’ historic range, in delineating recovery efforts for the lobo.

“Today the Commission violated its mission and the trust of Coloradans,” said Taylor Jones, endangered species advocate with WildEarth Guardians. “Today’s vote is another example of political influence trumping science in vital decisions concerning our environment. Our wildlife managers, of all people, should not ignore the fundamental role apex carnivores like wolves play in our ecosystems.”

As evidenced by the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone in the 1990s, the benefits of restoring wolves to the natural landscape of the West are numerous and enduring. In addition to proven ecological benefits, including keeping deer and elk populations in check and enhancing streamside habitats by forcing ungulates to stay on the move, wolves’ return to Colorado would bring significant economic benefits from wildlife watching tourism opportunities.

Coloradan landscapes are suffering in the absence of wolves. For example, the majestic landscapes of Rocky Mountain National Park are currently pockmarked by twelve-foot tall exclusion fences aimed at mimicking the function of wolves by keeping elk from destroying streamside habitats. Returning wolves to Colorado would likely remove the need for the Park’s fences and unnatural elk culling by Park Service sharpshooters.

The Commission utterly disregarded thousands of constituent emails requesting it deny the anti-wolf resolution. The resolution is just a policy statement; it has no force of law and no impact on the ground.  “The ultimate authority and responsibility to recover endangered Mexican wolves under the Endangered Species Act lies with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service,” said Nokes. “The state has no authority to block federal wolf recovery efforts, and statements like the resolution are a black mark on the conservation legacy of Colorado.”


 

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