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Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission approves wolf reintroduction plan

A gray wolf lies down in a field of tall yellow grass
John and Karen Hollingsworth
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission has unanimously approved a plan to begin releasing gray wolves on the state's West Slope before the end of the year.

After two years of meetings, more than 4,000 public comments submitted, and hundreds of hours of spirited debate, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife commission has unanimously approved the state’s wolf reintroduction and management plan.

The plan calls for the state to begin releasing 10 to 15 gray wolves on the West Slope each year for the next three to five years.

The first release is scheduled to take place sometime before the end of the year at an unspecified location between Glenwood Springs and Vail.

Voters approved the reintroduction effort in 2020 with a requirement that it happen before 2024.

One of the most contentious aspects of the proposed reintroduction plan was how to manage the wolves once they were released on the West Slope. That debate continued until just moments before the reintroduction plan was approved Wednesday afternoon in Glenwood Springs.

On one side, ranchers continued to express longstanding concerns about the potential impact to their livestock and livelihoods if wolves are let loose. On the other, conservationists said the state shouldn’t kill any wolves, even when they attack other animals.

Despite the controversy, the commission ultimately said the state is ready to move forward with its plan.

Governor Jared Polis praised the decision, saying the project was a "big lift."

“The plan to implement the will of the voters is stronger because of all the great input from the people of Colorado who, of course, bring so much passion on all sides of this issue,” Polis said.

The Parks and Wildlife Commission said the final result was the product of many compromises, including raising the amount of money ranchers could get for livestock killed by wolves.

Scott Franz is an Investigative Reporter with KUNC.
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