Ranchers suing Colorado, federal agencies over wolf reintroduction

(The Center Square) – A pair of trade groups representing Colorado ranchers are suing state and federal wildlife agencies to delay reintroducing gray wolves to the Western Slope.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court by the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and Gunnison County Stockgrowers Association, comes before the state’s deadline to reintroduce gray wolves by the end of this year.

Colorado voters passed Proposition 114 in 2020, which requires the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to re-establish wolves by the end of this year. Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, one of the defendants in the lawsuit with CPW, approved a decision to designate Colorado’s wolves as an experimental population under the Endangered Species Act’s 10(j) rule.

“The decision to pursue legal action comes after extensive discussion and consultation with CCA and GCSA members, who are deeply committed to the prosperity of Colorado’s agricultural industry and the well-being of their livestock,” the groups said in a statement. “Both organizations, CCA and GCSA, have opposed wolf introduction since it was a proposed ballot initiative and were involved in every step of the process.”

The groups added that they participated in developing the commission’s plan and voiced their concerns throughout the process.

“Those concerns and looming conflicts were not sufficiently resolved during that public process,” they said.

While the groups say they’re “grateful” for the 10(j) rule’s approval, which allows for more flexibility in dealing with conflicts, the lawsuit asks the court to require the USFWS to conduct an environmental impact statement in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act.

The groups also ask for an injunction to bar CPW from releasing any wolves until an environmental impact statement is completed.

“Impacts of wolf reintroduction, as would any other action of this magnitude, need to be properly reviewed to avoid unintended negative consequences to the natural environment, wildlife, and people of the impacted communities,” GCSA President Andy Spann said in a statement.

CPW has an agreement to bring 10 gray wolves from Oregon to Colorado.

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