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Colorado livestock groups file lawsuit to delay wolf introduction

Concerns, looming conflicts were not sufficiently resolved during public comment period.

Krissa Welshans

December 12, 2023

2 Min Read
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The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) and Gunnison County Stockgrowers Association (GCSA) filed a complaint this week in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado regarding the pending release of gray wolves in Colorado. The industry groups filed the litigation to address concerns about the potential impacts of wolf introduction on livestock and rural communities. 

The groups say the decision to pursue legal action “comes after extensive discussion and consultation” with members. Both CCA and GCSA have opposed wolf introduction since it was a proposed ballot initiative and were involved in every step of the process. They both actively participated in developing the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission’s Wolf Management Plan as members expressed detailed oral and written concerns regarding the scope of impacts associated with the potential release. However, those concerns and looming conflicts were not sufficiently resolved during that public process, they note.

The subsequent renewal of the Cooperative Agreement between FWS and CPW authorizing the proposed release is clearly a major federal action that is subject to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements. In fact, Eric Odell, species conservation program manager for CPW, recently acknowledged to 9NEWS that “there’s nothing we’ve taken on as an agency that’s nearly as big and meaningful.” 

Andy Spann, 5th generation rancher from Gunnison and president of GCSA, states: “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 put forth our concerns throughout the public process. We believe that much of our input, and that of many others across Western Colorado, was diminished by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission. We regret that a course of litigation on this and other issues seems to be the only recourse left to have these concerns legitimately addressed.”

The litigation aims to ensure that the economic, ecosystem, and animal welfare concerns of livestock producers are adequately addressed before any further steps are taken in the wolf introduction process.  The associations seek to highlight the risks to livestock, wildlife, and the potential economic repercussions for the agriculture sector should the introduction proceed without the proper safeguards and mitigation strategies. The litigation seeks to delay the release of wolves until the proper environmental impact review has been conducted. In the interim, the associations are grateful for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife partnership and the finalized FWS 10(j) rule, which went into effect on December 8, 2023, to provide Colorado producers management flexibility for potential wolf and livestock interactions.

“We regard this path of litigation not out of a desire for conflict, but rather as a testament to our unwavering commitment to supporting Colorado’s agriculture community and producers of the western slope,” says Robert Farnam, president of CCA.

About the Author(s)

Krissa Welshans

Livestock Editor

Krissa Welshans grew up on a crop farm and cow-calf operation in Marlette, Michigan. Welshans earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Michigan State University and master’s degree in public policy from New England College. She and her husband Brock run a show cattle operation in Henrietta, Texas, where they reside with their son, Wynn.

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