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HomeGeneralJudge Dismisses Cattlemen’s Request to Halt Wolf Reintroduction in Colorado

Judge Dismisses Cattlemen’s Request to Halt Wolf Reintroduction in Colorado

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A picture of a gray wolf
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A federal judge has dismissed a last-minute request by the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and the Gunnison County Stockgrowers Association. The CCA and the GCSA filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Colorado on Dec. 11.

The association alleges that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to adequately review the potential impacts of releasing up to 50 wolves in Colorado. Consequently, they requested a temporary restraining order against Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s plans.

Also, they asked the judge to temporarily halt the reintroduction of wolves captured and relocated from Oregon. However, Judge Regina Rodriguez dismissed the lawsuit. She noted that the plaintiffs are “understandably concerned about possible impacts of this reintroduction.” 

But scientific evidence doesn’t support blocking Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s restoration efforts. Judge Rodríguez added that it would run contrary to the will of Colorado voters, who in 2020 narrowly passed a ballot measure mandating wolf reintroduction. Consequently, she allowed the reintroduction of wolves in Colorado to move forward.

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The groups argued that the inevitable wolf attacks on livestock would come at a significant cost to ranchers. In addition, they noted that the state wants to release wolves in the industry that helps drive the local economies.

However, attorneys for the U.S. government said the state has met the requirements for environmental reviews. They added that any future harm would not be irreparable, which is the standard required for the groups’ temporary injunction.

In addition, the attorneys pointed to a state compensation program that pays owners if wolves kill their livestock. That compensation program pays up to $15,000 per animal, so Rodriguez sided with state and federal agencies.

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While the lawsuit will continue, Judge Rodriguez’s ruling allows Colorado to proceed with its plan. The state plans to find, capture, and transport up to 10 wolves from Oregon. The deadline to put paws on the ground under the voter-approved initiative is December 31.

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Rodriguez further argued that ranchers’ concerns didn’t outweigh the public interest in meeting the will of the people of Colorado. The U.S. government exterminated Gray wolves across the nation by the 1930s under government-sponsored poisoning and trapping campaigns.

However, they received endangered species protections in 1975, when about 1,000 survived in northern Minnesota. Consequently, wolves rebounded in the Great Lakes region. They’ve also returned to numerous western states, including Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, and, most recently, California.

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This return follows a 1990s reintroduction effort that brought wolves from Canada to central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park. According to studies, wolf reintroduction has various positive effects on impacted ecosystems.

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Wolf reintroduction leads to healthier elk herds and the recovery of riparian habitats previously damaged by overgrazing. Colorado agreed with Oregon to source wolves after officials in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho declined to assist Colorado.

Following the court’s ruling, conservation advocates cheered the court’s decision. They decried the ranchers’ request as an attempt to “thwart the will of the voters.” Also, Allison Henderson, southern Rockies director at the Center for Biological Diversity, expressed her satisfaction in a press release.

“I’m relieved that the court saw right through the livestock industry’s self-serving and meritless arguments,” she said. “Both science and Colorado voters have told us that wolves belong here. Once they reintroduce wolves, they’ll help restore our state’s ecosystem balance.”

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