U.S. Fish and Wildlife decision to provide ‘flexibility’ in gray wolf reintroduction

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a final environmental impact statement and draft record of a decision to establish an nonessential experimental population of gray wolves in Colorado.

The designation is made under a section of the U.S. Endangered Species Act with the goal of providing increased management flexibility to Colorado Parks and Wildlife amid the state’s push to reintroduce gray wolves west of the Continental Divide in Colorado, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

“This management flexibility can help ensure co-existence between wolves and affected landowners contributing to the conservation of the species while reducing the potential impacts of reintroduction to stakeholders,” the federal agency said in a statement.

Specifically, the nonessential experimental population designation provides for the “allowable, legal, purposeful, and incidental take of the gray wolf” in Colorado while also, “providing for the conservation of the species, according to a draft of the final environmental impact statement.

In 2021, U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper requested the U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife review the potential for the experimental designation as stakeholders in Colorado sought clarity over how the animal’s population would be reintroduced.

“We need to continue listening to the people who will be affected most when determining how to responsibly reintroduce gray wolves in Colorado,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “It’s great to see Fish and Wildlife heed our call for flexible management.”

Colorado voters narrowly passed gray wolf reintroduction into law in Colorado in a 2020 statewide ballot measure known as Proposition 114.

Earlier this year, Colorado Parks and Wildlife finalized a plan to reintroduce the animals with a goal to release wolves on the Western Slope by Dec. 31.

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