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Parks and Wildlife Commission Chooses Politics over Science

January 13, 2016
Kelly Nokes (406) 209-9545 knokes@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release

Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Parks and Wildlife Commission Chooses Politics over Science

Adopts Deeply Flawed Resolution Opposing Mexican Wolf Recovery in Colorado
Contact: Kelly Nokes (406) 209-9545 knokes@wildearthguardians.org

Additional contact:

TaylorJones, (720) 443-2615, tjones@wildearthguardians.org

Denver, CO – Over 100 activists ralliedin support of wolves’ return to Colorado prior to the state Parks and WildlifeCommission’s disappointing approval of an anti-wolf resolution that voicesopposition to the reintroduction of critically endangered Mexican wolves to thestate.

The resolution ignores not only thebest science available indicating that Colorado provides superb habitat forwolves, and the Colorado Gray Wolf Feasibility Study sponsored by the U.S. Fishand Wildlife Service, which concluded Colorado can support over 1,100 wolves,but also the voices of the majority of Coloradans who want to see wolves returnto the state. Over seventy percent of Colorado residents supported returningwolves in 1994, according to a survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A2013 survey commissioned by Defenders of Wildlife shows the same large majorityof Coloradans support returning wolves today.

“The Commission’s resolution is scientifically baseless, showingthe state is more concerned with politics than the health of the environment,”said Kelly Nokes, carnivore campaign lead with WildEarth Guardians. “TheCommission should not ignore science and the overwhelming majority ofColoradans who favor welcoming wolves home to the state to appease politicallypowerful minority interests spouting disproven anti-wolf rhetoric.”

Driven to near extinction by the 1920s,Mexican wolves were given federal protections under the Endangered Species Actin 1976. Also known as “lobos,” this subspecies of the gray wolf is strugglingto make a comeback, with recovery efforts focused primarily on a captive-bredreintroduction program. At last official count, only 109 Mexican wolves wereroaming the wilds of New Mexico and Arizona, and the population desperatelyneeds to expand its range to recover. Today’s resolution falsely encourages theuse of arbitrary political boundaries, such as the Colorado state line, ratherthan the species’ historic range, in delineating recovery efforts for the lobo.

“Today the Commission violated itsmission and the trust of Coloradans,” said Taylor Jones, endangered speciesadvocate with WildEarth Guardians. “Today’s vote is another example ofpolitical influence trumping science in vital decisions concerning ourenvironment. Our wildlife managers, of all people, should not ignore thefundamental role apex carnivores like wolves play in our ecosystems.”

As evidenced by the reintroduction ofwolves to Yellowstone in the 1990s, the benefits of restoring wolves to thenatural landscape of the West are numerous and enduring. In addition to provenecological benefits, including keeping deer and elk populations in check andenhancing streamside habitats by forcing ungulates to stay on the move, wolves’return to Colorado would bring significant economic benefits from wildlifewatching tourism opportunities.

Coloradan landscapes are suffering inthe absence of wolves. For example, the majestic landscapes of Rocky MountainNational Park are currently pockmarked by twelve-foot tall exclusion fencesaimed at mimicking the function of wolves by keeping elk from destroyingstreamside habitats. Returning wolves to Colorado would likely remove the needfor the Park’s fences and unnatural elk culling by Park Service sharpshooters.

The Commission utterly disregarded thousands ofconstituent emails requesting it deny the anti-wolf resolution. The resolutionis just a policy statement; it has no force of law and no impact on theground. “The ultimate authority andresponsibility to recover endangered Mexican wolves under the EndangeredSpecies Act lies with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service,” said Nokes. “Thestate has no authority to block federal wolf recovery efforts, and statementslike the resolution are a black mark on the conservation legacy of Colorado.”

Other Contact
Taylor Jones, (720) 443-2615, tjones@wildearthguardians.org
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