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On wolves: ‘Boebert’s bill short-circuits scientific process’

In November 2020, Colorado voters decided to restore gray wolves to their former home in Colorado. That vote, and the state-led restoration process now underway is a historic event in wildlife conservation and restoration.

With years of public input and planning, Colorado Parks and Wildlife developed a framework for restoration, recovery and the future conservation of wolves.

Unfortunately, Congresswoman Lauren Boebert wants to derail this historic undertaking. Last month, the U.S. House voted on a bill sponsored by Boebert that would sabotage our wolf restoration efforts by ending Endangered Species protections in Colorado and across the U.S. With only a handful of wolves yet returned to the state and wolves outside Colorado recovered in only a fraction of suitable habitat, it is outrageous to consider undermining the Endangered Species Act by removing federal safeguards nationwide.

The Endangered Species Act has paved the way for Colorado’s nascent wolf recovery program. The law’s protections for imperiled species are what prohibits wolves within and beyond Colorado from being killed. We were recently reminded all too well of the law’s importance when a Wyoming resident brutally tortured and killed a young wolf there.

In contrast to Boebert’s legislation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service follows a rigorous scientific and legal process –including an assessment of remaining threats to the population – when determining whether or not to delist a species. Boebert’s bill short-circuits that scientific process, substituting politics for the findings of wildlife biologists.

Coloradans are proud of the historic wildlife restoration process that is unfolding in our state. This includes the understanding that wolves will likely kill some livestock.

Accordingly, CPW developed a generous compensation plan to reimburse livestock producers for cattle and sheep lost to wolves. Additionally, the state has provided funding to help ranchers adapt their practices and provide materials to prevent conflicts with wolves from ever happening. Individuals can help with this, too, by purchasing the Born to be Wild license plates for their cars. There is help from institutions such as Colorado State University, which has a Center for Human-Carnivore Coexistence and funding to help with this transition.

In short, Colorado is taking care of both its wildlife and its people.

By caring for our wildlife in Colorado, we are also helping wildlife across the West. Colorado occupies a critical location between the northern Rockies and Mexico, where wildlife needs to be able to disperse to ensure genetic diversity and ecosystem resilience in the face of climate change.

We don’t need cynical, misleading legislation from politicians that drives wedges rather than unites Coloradans around something amazing. We can have wolves and other wildlife, and care for people’s needs and concerns as well.

To be successful, though, we need to be patient and thoughtful. We need to hear each other and stay true to our commitment to care for our natural world. We need to do the work of learning about wolves, trying new things, and being resourceful and innovative, while taking pride in this special story as it unfolds.

Colorado is on the cutting edge of wildlife restoration. The recent decision to restore wolverines to Colorado will put us even further in the vanguard of wildlife conservation nationally –even globally.

All Coloradans should be proud of the incredible vision, planning, and groundbreaking species recovery story we are weaving by welcoming gray wolves to their home in the Colorado Rockies.

Ryan Sedgeley is the Colorado field representative for the Endangered Species Coalition and lives on the Western Slope.