Avon - The Colorado Wildlife Commission on
Thursday set a course toward reconciliation
with an old enemy: the wolf.
The Wildlife Commission, which sets policy
for the state Division of Wildlife, agreed to
accept the return of the migrating predators
from Yellowstone National Park and to
formalize a plan to manage the state's first
The vote on the policy, set forth in a
report by the Wolf Working Group, a panel of
sportsmen, ranchers and conservation groups,
"I don't know if you realize the
significance of the vote you took and how
different that story could have been," Bruce
McCloskey, the Division of Wildlife's
director, told the commission.
The plan says the state will let wolves
roam wherever they choose but urges a swift
response to trouble, including killing wolves
that prey on livestock. The policy also calls
for a program to fairly compensate ranchers
for their losses with money not raised from
existing game-damage funds or license fees.
However, the policy leaves unanswered more
intractable questions, like how to deal with
numerous packs and whether Colorado should
reintroduce wolves on its own. And it comes
during a period of turmoil and uncertainty
in the national wolf debate.
Earlier this year, an Oregon judge agreed
with environmentalists that the federal system
of dividing wolves into regional
subpopulations - and the reclassification of
wolves as threatened - was illegal. The ruling
reclassified all wolves as "endangered" and
eliminated rules that allowed ranchers to
shoot problem wolves.
The court decision will likely push
permanent state management further into the
But on Wednesday, the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service said it would agree to let
Colorado manage problem wolves through an
Del Benson, a professor at Colorado State
University and chairman of the wolf panel,
said he hoped environmental groups would step
forward with money to help the state manage
"This animal should be the poster child for
these groups," he said. "They don't get more
While polls show a majority of Coloradans
welcome the wolf's return, many in the
livestock community remain skeptical.
Craig rancher Jean Stetson said many
ranchers have accused her of selling them out
by agreeing to even a single wolf in the
"There's one faction in the state that
wants wolves here now," she said. "We have
another faction that says, 'Hell no - I'll
shoot every one I see."'
The division continues to receive wolf
sightings, though none has been confirmed
since a young female from Yellowstone was
struck and killed on Interstate 70 near Idaho
Springs last June.
While McCloskey applauded the panel's
report, it also left him with more work. He
has to find money for the new wolf policy.
"It's tough to have a contingency fund in
tough budget times," he said. "But it would be
good to set something aside so we can pull the
trigger when we need to."
Staff writer Theo Stein can be reached
at 303-820-1657 or at