With the passage of Prop. 114 last November, the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has begun the planning process that will guide wolf introduction on the West Slope in the next couple of years. One of the first steps in that process is asking for public input on the introduction plan to help determine the technical aspects of introduction.
This is where our members, and the people of Colorado, have another opportunity to have your voice heard. The state has scheduled a number of open houses to discuss wolf introduction and hear questions, concerns, and ideas about the process. If you want your voice heard, please consider signing up to give public comment at one of the meetings or take the time to fill out the written public comment form. The written public comment form can be found here: https://www.wolfengagementco.org/online-open-house-comment-form. To learn more about this process please go to https://www.wolfengagementco.org/. The schedule for the open house listening sessions is included at the bottom of this article.
Colorado Farm Bureau would love to help you draft your public comment and this article is meant to provide tips on how to draft a constructive comment and includes a few talking points you may use.
Planning to Speak at Listening Session
First, sit down and write out what you are going to say. It is better to have a script and prepared speech, that way you don’t forget important points and your comment is better understood.
Second, begin your comment by stating your name, where you are from, and why you are interested in this issue. This identifies you and helps the listener connect with your viewpoint. This is also where you can mention that you are a farmer or rancher and share a bit about your farm or ranch (i.e. what livestock you raise; your family members that live on it; how long it has been in the family, etc.)Telling the story about your operation and family makes you more personable. It also gives you credibility when discussing solutions for problems arising from wolf introduction.
Third, include how this will impact your life and why it is important to you. Below are some talking points you can use to help you formulate your reasons:
- This will impact my livelihood because x, y, z…
- Impact to West Slope
- This directly impacts the West Slope, so it is important that you listen to those impacted more than other voices in the discussion.
- The eastern plains made its voice heard, now it is time to listen to those who will be directly impacted by this action.
- Location is Important
- Locations for the introduction of wolves should be dictated primarily by where wolves will have the least impact on existing human activity.
- Proper Management Plan
- We need to ensure there is a proper management plan that is realistic and reflective of the actual impacts wolf introduction has on local communities.
- The final management plan should rely more heavily on stakeholder input than the technical group because this issue came from the ballot.
- Solution to negative impacts
- There must be a solution to depredation losses.
- The management plan should begin with depredation payments and compensation for the negative impacts of the species.
- Impacts to livestock are larger than depredation and include impacts to birthweights, fertility, and more.
- Management and compensation plans should take into account the secondary impacts, not just direct loss.
- There must be a solution to depredation losses.
Finally, remember that when writing your comment you are trying to educate the commission on why your issues are important and should be considered. Be sure that your comment is constructive. Be sure to talk about your own experiences, facts about how this will affect your lifestyle, why this will impact you, and what your solution is for mitigating or preventing harm. Attacking CPW or the listener will be ineffective and likely not strongly considered by the commission.
Fourth, include how this will impact your life and why it is important to you. Below are some tips you can use to help you formulate your reasons.
Keep your comment concise and specific. Do not ramble because that will take away from your comment’s effectiveness. Additionally, try to keep your comment to a page or less. Here is an example of how a comment might be structured:
Hello, my name is Jane Doe. I am a rancher near [Town], Colorado. [Share a bit more about your farm/ranch]. The introduction of wolves on the west slope will impact me [State how it will impact you, your operation, and/or your community]. [Suggest how wolves should be introduced with minimal impact to you, your operation, and community].
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today.
Schedule for remaining meetings:
Wednesday, August 11th, 5:00 – 8:00PM
CSU Lory Student Center
1101 Center Ave Mall, Fort Collins, CO 80521
Thursday, August 12th, 5:00 – 8:00PM
Northeastern Junior College – Hays Center Ballroom
100 College Ave, Sterling, CO 80751
Thursday, August 19, 5:00-8:00PM
Otero Junior College Student Center
2001 San Juan Ave., La Junta, Colorado
Tuesday, August 24, 5:00-8:00PM
The Brush Creek Pavilion
0909 Capitol Street, Eagle CO 81631
If you are not one for public speaking or do not have time to attend an event, there is an opportunity to submit written comments. You can do so by visiting https://www.wolfengagementco.org/online-open-house-comment-form. You can also find more information on how to comment on the website. This process only takes a couple of minutes and we are here to help you. The Summer 2021 online comment form will close on August 31st, at 11:59 p.m.
Below are the questions that will be asked on the online form and a few talking points for reference.
Engagement, Education, and Outreach
What suggestions do you have for engagement, education, and outreach to make gray wolf restoration and management as successful as possible?
- The second round of meetings in the West Slope communities should be held once a draft plan (with alternatives) is written. Provide the public with copies of the plan well in advance so they can review it and be prepared to provide comments at public meetings. CPW decision-making leadership should present to the community groups and be available for Q&A in the public meetings rather than through the various booths set up like was done on the first round.
- Continue providing information on the real challenges that other states have faced with the introduction process and the management of wolves. This should include the exponential population growth over a ten-year period, the cost of the program to the wildlife agency for management, the predation impacts and costs, the lack of funding to cover the predation costs after 5 – 10 years, impacts to wildlife and recreation, etc.
What concerns or questions about engagement, education, and outreach do you have?
- There are many proponents of wolf introduction who don’t understand the unique circumstances of Colorado wildlife, even those who use research and scientific information to back their points. It’s important to remember that Colorado is unique and while comparing to other areas of the county, such as Yellowstone, may be helpful in some ways, it should not be the only consideration. I urge the commission to use Colorado realities and circumstances to guide the management plan.
- Giving local communities as much time as possible to process and understand the timeline and actions taken around wolf introduction is incredibly important. Farmers and ranchers may have to completely shift the way they care for their animals in the wilderness and providing as much advance notice as possible is paramount.
What specific suggestions do you have for restoration logistics to make gray wolf restoration in Colorado as successful as possible?
- Location should be identified within the most remote location possible within the state.
- Release only one pair of wolves, to begin with, and then evaluate the impacts over a five-year period before introducing any more. Proceed with adaptive management based on the success of the pack and the impacts on other wildlife, communities, and livestock.
- Releasing wolves in only one location between 2023 and 2028 to provide monitoring and evaluation of their success and impacts before considering releasing them in more locations or additional wolves in that area.
- Manage wolves in specified GMUs or group of GMUs depending on the size to ensure a pack of wolves would have ample area considering what it takes for a healthy wolf population but also considers the impacts to all the other multiple uses of the land.
What concerns or questions about wolf restoration logistics do you have?
- Because this is a Colorado-specific initiative, Colorado citizens should bear the cost of management and predation and not other programs already hurting for funds. Specifically hunting and fishing programs within CPW. This includes CPW doing the management and control rather than a federal agency.
What wolf population and other biological information would indicate that the gray wolf restoration program was a success?
- Begin introduction with one successful breeding pair within an identified GMU or group of GMU locations and monitor them for five years before determining if there is a need to introduce any more within that unit.
- A hard maximum number of wolves for the state must be identified but also the maximum number by identified GMU so that a heavy population in one area does not decimate the wildlife, livestock, recreation, etc. within a given area. That number must be based on scientific data and experience. We would anticipate that could be done by the amount of public land within the area that the law requires them to be released (Western Slope).
What suggestions do you have for management strategies to make gray wolf restoration in CO as successful as possible?
- Identify a maximum number of wolves for any identified GMU similar to how the BLM is to manage “wild”/feral horses.
- Provide lethal management, including hunting, in any unit that becomes over the maximum number of wolves (over objective). Issue hunting licenses for over-target population numbers immediately to ensure wolf numbers don’t get out of control like they have in other states and like the horses have on BLM land. If for any reason hunting licenses are not an option, require relocation and/or lethal management by the CPW.
- For the restoration to be successful, the impacted communities must know that there is a lethal management option for any over-objective numbers and for any problem wolves. Problem wolves are identified as ones that harass and/or kill livestock or other domestic species including dogs and humans.
What suggestions do you have for monitoring?
- Consider utilizing impacts as one monitoring tool. Impacts to ranchers and livestock, local communities, and local wildlife.
What suggestions do you have for funding gray wolf management?
- Since this was a statewide ballot initiative, the People of the State of Colorado should bear the cost of funding gray wolf management. This funding should not come at the cost of other programs such as hunting and fishing.
What concerns or questions about wolf management do you have?
- Overpopulation is a major concern. Ensuring that populations of other animals are not affected by wolf introduction is paramount.
- Hunting permits and regulations should not be changed because of wolf introduction, instead, wolf populations should be managed so they do not affect current hunting quotas.
- Reevaluation of the process should occur frequently and often. Public information sessions should occur on the West Slope to gauge what impacts wolf introduction is having on local communities.
What suggestions do you have for conflict minimization best practices?
- The perspectives and concerns of livestock producers and rural residents on the west slope should be sought and incorporated into any decisions, as they will be directly impacted by this action.
What suggestions do you have for compensation programs?
- This must be determined by those most impacted. Work closely with the livestock groups (Cattlemen, Woolgrowers, Farm Bureau) to educate and spread awareness of compensation programs and the process to apply.
- If livestock depredation increases in an area, kills should be presumed a wolf kill.
- Compensation must be made for death loss and injury. This should be based on the individual rancher’s sales receipts and recognition of future losses due to that cow/bull not being in the herd to carry on the specific genetics the rancher has been managing for over the years. If it is a steer calf, the fall market price on that producer’s average weight of calves.
- Compensation must include the indirect costs associated with the wolves (reduced weaning weights, reduced weaning numbers, reduced conception (breed back) rates, etc. One way to do this is taking the average of the five year’s history before the introduction of wolves and compare that to the current year and they are compensated for the difference.
- Compensation must occur in a timely and efficient manner.
What suggestions do you have for management of conflict wolves?
- This must be determined by those most impacted. Work closely with the livestock groups (Cattlemen, Woolgrowers, Farm Bureau) and others to understand what conflicts are actually occurring.
- Provide an efficient and easy-to-use reporting system for the public to record conflicts with wolves and ensure a timely response from CPW.
- Conflict wolves must be removed with lethal force. There is no sense in moving a problem from one location to another like they do bears.
What concerns or questions about livestock interactions do you have?
- Because we have seen such devastation in other areas of the country, it is concerning that livestock interactions will escalate and do so quickly. The wolf management plan must account for large amounts of losses and be ready to respond and prevent further conflict.
- Education and support resources should be available for livestock owners to help to prevent conflict.
- It is often difficult for ranchers who run livestock on large areas of land to identify losses in a way that would prove wolf kills. If these losses occur near areas of wolf introduction, the wolf should be assumed as the reason for death.
What additional feedback do you have?
- There will be far-reaching consequences and implications of wolf introduction and the State should be cognizant of these impacts to the West Slope and its communities.