At its virtual meeting on January 14, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission provided CPW staff with direction to begin creating a robust, adaptive management plan to reintroduce wolves in Colorado with a 10-1 majority vote.
“We have direction from the voters of Colorado to develop a reintroduction and management plan for gray wolves as transparently and as expeditiously as possible,” said CPW director Dan Prenzlow. “This authorizes us to move forward in a phased approach that will allow us to be both efficient and flexible as we enact the plan. We will introduce wolves in Colorado no later than December 31, 2023.”
CPW assistant director for Aquatics, Terrestrial and Natural Resources Reid DeWalt presented a series of action items for the plan in his presentation to the commission.
“Our first steps will be to begin a thorough stakeholder engagement process across Colorado to ensure robust participation and input while working to accomplish the needed steps for a successful reintroduction process,” DeWalt said. “The main objectives of our proposed outreach strategy are: gathering and sharing information to build public awareness and promote engagement across the state, designing and implementing an inclusive and transparent process to meet the requirements outlined in Proposition 114, collaborating with technical experts and diverse stakeholders to share knowledge and draft management and conservation strategies, and fostering commitment and collaboration toward plan implementation.”
In addition to public meetings across the state to collect input from the public on their questions and concerns regarding wolf reintroduction, both a Technical Working Group and a Stakeholder Working Group will be created to serve as advisory bodies to the commission.
The Technical Working Group would initially be responsible for:
—Proposing of conservation objectives and management strategies that CPW will incorporate into its draft plan.
—Developing the details of the damage prevention and compensation program.
The Stakeholder Advisory Group will:
—Support development of draft strategies by representing a range of viewpoints and geographic areas within the state.
—Make substantive contributions for consideration to the plan(s) developed by the Technical Working Group.
Those interested in applying to participate on the Stakeholder Advisory Group or attending public meetings can stay informed through CPW’s Wolf Management Page, social media channels and eNews newsletters. All agendas, data and draft materials for future meetings will be posted to CPW’s website.
The commission will serve as the decision-making body for the development of the plan. This role will include:
—Considering options for facilitating public involvement and approving the public involvement process to develop the plan.
—Receiving input from CPW staff, the public, stakeholders and technical experts and providing feedback on draft management concepts and strategies.
—Approving the final plan.
DeWalt noted that it is within the purview of the commission to either speed up or slow down the planning process.
Before the majority vote to move forward with the proposed process to develop a wolf restoration and management plan, many commissioners noted that they would like their vote to reflect the desire to enact the will of the voters on a flexible timeline if possible and where appropriate, while still performing the due diligence required of a robust stakeholder engagement process.
Next steps will include a Conduct Education and Listening Tour from February through May 2021. CPW will hold virtual meetings to share information with the public and stakeholders and to provide opportunities for public input on wolf conservation/management in Colorado.